Anatoli Zhelezniakov 1895-1919 – stormy petrel. A pen portrait by Paul Avrich

Anatoli Zhelezniakov (1895-1919)

“The guard is tired.” With these words, uttered on the night of January 5/6, 1918, a young anarchist sailor named Anatoli Zhelezniakov dispersed the Constituent Assembly and carved a small niche for himself in the history of the Russian Revolution. When the tsarist regime collapsed in February 1917, Zhelezniakov had been serving on a minelayer based in Kronstadt, the famous headquarters of the Baltic Fleet near the capital city of Petrograd. After the February Revolution, anarchists and other militants occupied the villa of P.P. Durnovo, the Governor of Moscow during the revolution of 1905, and converted it into a revolutionary commune and a “house of rest,” with rooms for reading and discussion and a garden as a playground for their children. To hostile minds, however, the Durnovo villa had become a foul den of iniquity, “a sort of Brocken, where the powers of evil assembled, witches’ Sabbaths were held, and there were orgies, plots, dark and sinister, and doubtless bloody doings,” as N.N. Sukhanov wrote in his notes on the Russian Revolution. Yet the villa was left undisturbed until June 5, 1917, when a number of its anarchist occupants tried to seize the printing plant of a middle-class newspaper. The First Congress of Soviets, then in session in the capital, denounced the raisers as “criminals who call themselves anarchists,” and on June 7, P.N. Pereverzev, the Minister of Justice in the Provisional Government ordered the anarchists to evacuate the house immediately. [The Russian Anarchists]

By Paul Avrich (Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, No 5, 1979)

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