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Kronstadt, 1921

Kronstadt, 1921

Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Kronstadt, 1921
    Book Description:

    In March 1921 the sailors of Kronstadt, the naval fortress in the Gulf of Finland, rose in revolt against the Bolshevik government, which they themselves had helped into power. Under the slogan of Ã'free soviets,'' they established a revolutionary commune that survived for sixteen days, until an army came across the ice to crush it. After a savage struggle, the rebels were subdued. Paul Avrich vividly describes the uprising and examines it in the context of the development of the Soviet state.

    Originally published in 1991.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5908-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    This was the flash,” said Lenin of the Kronstadt rebellion, “which lit up reality better than anything else.”¹ In March 1921 the sailors of the naval fortress in the Gulf of Finland, the “pride and glory” of the Russian Revolution, rose in revolt against the Bolshevik government, which they themselves had helped into power. Under the slogan of “free soviets,” they established a revolutionary commune that survived for 16 days, until an army was sent across the ice to crush it. After a long and savage struggle, with heavy losses on both sides, the rebels were subdued.

    The rising at...

  5. 1. The Crisis of War Communism
    (pp. 7-34)

    In the autumnof 1920 Soviet Russia began an uneasy period of transition from war to peace. For more than six years the country had known continuous upheaval, but now, after world war, revolution, and civil war, the smoke was finally lifting. On October 12 the Soviet government concluded an armistice with Poland. Three weeks later the last of the White generals, Baron Peter Wrangel, was driven into the sea, and the Civil War, though it left the country torn and bleeding, was won. In the south, Nestor Makhno, the anarchist partisan, remained at large, but in November 1920 his...

  6. 2. Petrograd and Kronstadt
    (pp. 35-87)

    In February 1921an open breach occurred between the Bolshevik regime and its principal mainstay of support, the working class. Since the onset of winter, an unusually severe one even by Muscovite standards, cold and hunger, combined with the undiminished rigors of War Communism, had produced a highly charged atmosphere in the large towns. This was particularly true of Moscow and Petrograd, where only a single spark was needed to set off an explosion. It was provided on January 22, when the government announced that the already meager bread ration for the cities would immediately be cut by one-third.¹ Severe...

  7. 3. Kronstadt and the Russian Emigration
    (pp. 88-130)

    From the outset, the Soviet authorities recognized the danger of the turbulence in Kronstadt. Given the acute discontent among the Russian people, the revolt of the sailors might spark a mass conflagration throughout the country. The possibility of outside intervention gave added cause for concern, and Kronstadt’s strategic position at the gateway to the Neva placed Petrograd under serious jeopardy. Mindful of historical parallels, the Bolsheviks might well recall that four years earlier mutinous outbreaks in the armed forces, in conjunction with strikes and demonstrations in the former capital, had brought about the downfall of the autocracy. Now their own...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. 4. First Assault
    (pp. 131-156)

    The Bolsheviks, faced with a staggering domestic crisis, were determined to end the revolt as quickly as possible. Their very existence as a government seemed at stake. For one thing, the title of “Provisional Revolutionary Committee,” adopted by the rebel leaders on March 2, was itself a provocation and a challenge. But even more menacing was the initial demand of thePetropavlovskresolution. By appealing for new elections to the soviets, “in view of the fact that the present soviets do not express the will of the workers and peasants,” the insurgents in effect were questioning the legitimacy of Bolshevik...

  10. 5. The Kronstadt Program
    (pp. 157-192)

    The Kronstadtrebellion lasted only a little more than two weeks. Yet, during this short time, a revolutionary commune of a remarkable type was established under the leadership of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee, whose members, while having no long-term strategy to speak of, displayed considerable gifts of improvisation and self-organization. The committee, as we have seen, had been created on March 2 from the five-man presidium of the conference in the House of Education. But it soon became clear that a larger body would be needed to handle the administration and defense of the city and garrison. Thus, on the...

  11. 6. Suppression
    (pp. 193-217)

    On March 9, the day after the abortive assault on the rebel stronghold, the Bolshevik leader Kamenev addressed the Tenth Party Congress in Moscow. The military situation in Kronstadt, he said, had become “more protracted” than anyone had expected, so that the liquidation of the mutiny would not be accomplished “at an early hour.”¹ The first attack had been premature. In their anxiety to crush the rebellion before it could receive outside help or spread to the mainland, the authorities had acted too hastily, making faulty preparations and using an insufficient quantity of troops and equipment, with the result that...

  12. 7. Epilogue
    (pp. 218-232)

    Kronstadt fell. The insurgents had fought with determination and courage. But their prospects for success had been dim from the start. The rising, as its leaders themselves acknowledged, had been badly timed and ill-prepared. The sailors had no invasion force, nor any outside help, while the Bolsheviks, having won the Civil War, were free to concentrate the best of their armed might against them. Moreover, the ice on the Finnish Gulf was still frozen solid, enabling the government to mount a large-scale infantry attack against the isolated rebel stronghold. Compared with the anti-Soviet movements of the Civil War, then, Kronstadt...

  13. Appendix A Memorandum on the Question of Organizing an Uprising in Kronstadt
    (pp. 235-240)
  14. Appendix B What We Are Fighting For
    (pp. 241-243)
  15. Appendix C Socialism in Quotation Marks
    (pp. 244-246)
  16. Annotated Bibliography
    (pp. 247-260)
  17. Index
    (pp. 261-271)