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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MY DISILLUSIONMENT IN RUSSIA by Emma Goldman. eBook £1.50/€2.00 (see eBookshelf)

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“Deported American anarchist Emma Goldman travels to Russia for the first time in 30 years. She provides a revealing picture on the rampant oportunism throughout the Soviet government and its steady roots throughout the bureacracy. In addition she focuses on how the Soviet government began to open its arms after the Civil War to those who once had fought against it: the Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries, and even the old tsarists. While these forces of the right were now coming into cooperation with the Soviet government, those on the extreme left saw an utter betrayal of revolutionary principles. At the one hand, during the Civil War, the Bolsheviks were much too brutal to the rightists, now they were much too nice. The extreme left then began to adamantly push for the overthrow of the Soviet government. Goldman explains life in Soviet Russia from the viewpoint of the extreme left revolutionaries, and charts the undemocratic injustices that occur to them as a result.

“Goldman was dismayed when she discovered that Doubleday, Page & Company had, without informing her, changed the title of her work from “My Two Years in Russia” to “My Disillusionment in Russia.” Even worse, the publisher cut the last twelve chapters of the manuscript (starting with Chapter 22: Odessa), omitting her account of crucial events such as the Kronstadt rebellion and the afterword in which she reflected on the trajectory of the revolution after the Bolsheviks seized power. At Goldman’s insistence, the omitted chapters were published as a separate volume: My Further Disillusionment in Russia (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1924). The complete text in one volume, with an introduction by Rebecca West, appeared the following year: My Disillusionment in Russia (London: C. W. Daniel Company, 1925).”