The Great October Conspiracy Conspiracy theories were as useful in 1917 as they are one hundred years later
Fyodor Krasheninnikov Vedomosti
October 31, 2017
A hundred years ago, Russia stood on the treshold of the Bolshevik coup and the subsequent long-term dictatorship of the Communist Party. How did it happen that society could summon up no forces to stop it?
If you believe conspiracy theorists, in 1917, the forces of darkness managed twice in a single year, in February and October, to pull off the same trick: to hatch a plot and overthrow the existing regime. This take on what happened a hundred years ago has become all but official, and on the anniversary of the Bolshevik coup we will be treated to it again and again.
The story of German agents plotting against Russia was dreamt up a hundred years ago. After the July Days of 1917, a brief revolt in Petrograd against the Provisional Government, an idea emerged in the depths of the counterintelligence service, which had been disfigured by revolutionary purges. The Bolsheviks would be declared German intelligence agents, society would be incited against them, and counterintelligence could take the gloves off. Yet no serious evidence of the charges was presented, and consequently the attempt to save the crumbling Kerensky regime by telling a lie dealt a blow to the regime itself.
After the Bolsheviks came to power and did everything they did, the story about German spies took on a life of its own, eventually fusing with the monarchist theory that Freemasons had organized the February Revolution.
Conspiracy theories are equally useful to the authorities in 1917 and in 2017 for an obvious reason: it lets them off the hook for the state of the nation. Economic downturns, foreign policy failures, and popular discontent are all ascribed to outside forces and their domestic agents. When they turn the talk to spies and conspiraces, the powers that be make their lives easier, for inflating spy mania, and encouraging people to tighten their belts and rally round the current regime, whatever it is like, is much simpler than improving the economic and sociopolitical circumstances at home and thereby raising the popularity of the regime itself.
The main lesson to be drawn from a thoughtful reflection on the events of 1917 is that the government is primarily to blame for revolutions and coups, because it generates the prerequisites for its successful overthrow. We can endlessly mourn the last tsar and his family, but the truth is that it was Nicholas II who brought things to the point where a huge empire collapsed in a matter of days for the most ridiculous reason, and the institution of the monarchy proved incapable of mobilizing its potential supporters to defend, if not the overthrown tsar himself, then at least the Romanov dynasty and the monarchical system.
By hemming and hawing, and proving incapable either of solving the most urgent economic problems or holding elections to the Constituent Assembly until state power had utterly collapsed, the Provisional Government did its all to pave the way for the Bolsheviks and their sympathizers to seize power.
No conspiracy hatched by agents could have led to the seizure of power in the vast country if the program and slogans of the Bolsheviks had not been popular, and they themselves had not been regarded as a force capable of introducing at least minimal order, launching urgent social reforms, and finally holding elections to the Constituent Assembly.
We now know that the Bolsheviks deceived the workers, peasants, and soldiers, while also failing to bring the country social justice, peace or prosperity. But as we look back a hundred years, we must judge the circumustances not from the perspective of what we know nowadays, but from the viewpoint of contemporaries of those events, who saw only growing chaos on all sides and took seriously the promises made by the Bolsheviks.
Fortunately, there is no war [sic], no “land question,” and nothing like the Bolshevik Party, with its radical leftist platform and readiness for violence nowadays, so direct comparisons are completely out of place. But attempts by the current regime to chalk up all its failures and all dissatisfaction with it to the baleful endeavors of foreign agents and fabled Russophobes do, indeed, evoke the saddest comparisons with the past.
Fyodor Krasheninnikov is a political scientist based in Yekaterinburg. Translated by the Russian Reader
Actually, the apparently much reviled Socialist Street was named Cabinet Street from 1784 to 1821. From 1821 to October 1918, it was named Ivan (?) Street (Ivanovskaya ulitsa), allegedly, after St. John the Baptist Church, which Wikipedia claims was located on the street itself (at No. 7). However, the redoubtable website Citywalls.ru says the church at this address was called the Church of the Transfiguration. Another source (K.S. Gorbachevich and E.P. Khablo, Pochemu tak nazvany? Leningrad: Lenizdat, 1985, p. 357) asserts the street was so called (Ivan is the Russian equivalent of John) because it “led” to the church of that name. The only extant St. John the Baptist Churches in modern-day Petersburg are the renowned Chesme Church at 12 Lensoviet Street, whose official name is, indeed, the Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. But it is located approximately eight kilometers to the south of Socialist Street. An identically named church on Stone Island is nearly as far away: it is seven kilometers to the north of Socialist Street.
This is not to mention the fact that most Petersburgers with more than a passing interest in krayevedenie (local lore and history) would know it was the current Pravda Street, which intersects Socialist Street and is so named because the first issue of the newspaper Pravda was run off the presses there in 1912, that long bore the name Cabinet Street, from 1822 to 1921. The street was called that because the quarter was inhabited, among others, by clerks from His Imperial Majesty’s Cabinet, the agency in charge of the Russian imperial family’s personal property and other matters from 1704 to 1917.
His Imperial Majesty’s Cabinet was headquartered in the imposing neoclassical building, on the corner of Nevsky Prospect and the Fontanka Embankment, built in the early nineteenth century by Giacomo Quarenghi and Luigi Rusca. The funny thing is that most locals, if asked, would probably identify the building as part of nearby Anichkov Palace, which originally housed His Imperial Majesty’s Cabinet and then, years later, served as the residence of the future Alexander III and his family. In Soviet times, the Anichkov Place became the Young Pioneers Palace, but is now known as the Palace of Youth Creativity. TRR
Recently, there has been a vigorous public discussion of renaming Voykov subway station in Moscow, just as earlier, the renaming of Bela Kun Street in Petersburg was discussed. I will add my own five kopecks to the topic.
The arguments of those who support renaming the station can be summarized as follows. Pyotr Voykov was a terrorist involved in the murder of the royal family and basically a bad man. Opponents of the renaming argue, on the contrary, that the charges leveled against Voykov are exaggerated, to put it mildly. Apparently, Voykov did not take part in the murder of the royal family personally (except that, along with other members of the Ural Soviet, he was party to the decision to execute them), and many other charges are based on articles published in the yellow press. (You can find the particulars here.) However, in my view, even if all the allegations against Voykov were valid, the station should not be renamed. Why not?
On the one hand, toponymy is just as much as inalienable part of our history as folk songs, architectural landmarks, literature, music, and all the rest. Attempts to change place names many years after they emerged only because our attitude to historical figures has changed are just as much acts of vandalism as demolishing landmarks and destroying historic buildings. In my view, this species of vandalism is much more shameful than the similar renamings committed by the Bolsheviks. At least the Bolsheviks were consistent. They demolished historical landmarks because they wanted to start with a clean slate. Nowadays, on the contrary, the restoration of history is advocated, but the methods used to “restore” this history are Bolshevik and anti-historical.
On the other hand, condemnation of the Bolsheviks is an attempt to judge figures of the past in terms of today’s standards. Such an approach, again, is anti-historical, and this pretext can be used to call for demolition of monuments to any historical figure. Let us condemn Peter the Great for killing his son and the numerous fatalities incurred during implementation of his projects, many of which, in all honesty, the country did not need. Let us condemn Catherine the Great for carrying out a coup and murdering her husband. Let us condemn Alexander I for complicity in the plot to kill his father. Sound good? Moreover, many of Voykov’s opponents say he murdered innocent children. However, the monarchical system was organized in such a way that these same innocent children might have presented a direct threat to their political foes, since they could have served as a standard around which monarchist forces could have rallied. Let us recall that the rule of the Romanovs began with the hanging of three-year-old Ivashka Voryonok (Ivan Dmitryevich), son of Marina Mniszech. But he was no more to blame (and no less to blame) than the Tsarevich Alexei.
In addition, the current situation is also marked by flagrant hypocrisy. There is a lot of talk in Russia nowadays about national reconciliation. However, for some reason, reconciliation takes the form of dismantling monuments and changing place names associated with revolutionaries, while the cult of their opponents (primarily, the “innocent martyr and holy tsar” Nicholas II, who bore direct responsibility for the country’s downfall) is assiduously propagated. Excuse me, but I cannot call that anything other than a scam.
Translated by the Russian Reader
Busts of the “Holy Martyr” Tsarevich Alexei, “Holy Tsar and Martyr” Nicholas II, and “Holy Tsaritsa and Martyr” Alexandra, outside the Theotokos of Tikhvin Church, Petersburg, April 25, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader
April 1, 2016 THE DECLINE OF EUROPE AND SLAVIC YARD Irina Volina: The Story of Slavic Yard Real Estate Agency’s Advertising Campaign on the Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Highway (April 2016) slrealty.ru
“The Russians are coming: this is not Hollywood.” The striking, slightly provocative slogan, reminiscent of the movie where Russian sailors come ashore in America, has stuck in the minds of many residents of the prestigious Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Highway.
The person who inspired the unusual advertising campaign is Irina Volina, head of the elite real estate agency Slavic Yard, is the same beautiful woman in the luxurious boyar costume whose photo is featured on the billboard bearing the renowned slogan.
Irina Volina has a reputation not only as a successful broker but also as a media figure who openly voices and defends her civic stance. She heads the Russian Heir Foundation for the Promotion of Enlightenment and Education, and she has authored patriotic appeals to the Russian elite. Irina Volina appears at important social events in unique Russian costumes designed by the Valentina Averyanova House of Russian Clothes.
In 2012, when part of the Russian intelligentsia stood at the crossroads, wondering whether to exert themselves to strengthen the state or leave for abroad to wait out the time of political chaos, Slavic Yard reminded [ethnic] Russian people of their civic dignity: to serve Russia. So billboards bearing the slogan “The Russians are coming: this is not Hollywood” appeared on the Rublyovka. Their gentle humor dissolved people’s fears and made it possible to think of a solid civic position.
The same year, as part of an advertising campaign for Slavic Yard, an interview with Irina Volina was published in the magazine StrongMen. The article was entitled “Irina Volina’s Sensible Choice,” and her photo graced the magazine’s cover. In the interview, Irina Volina reminded the Russian social elite of an ancient wisdom: “If you do not take up politics, politics will take you up and then it will be too late to run.” The dictum belongs to Aristotle, who held that politics involved building the state. Irina Volina also stressed that the cause of modern Russia’s problems was the promotion of Russophobia, for the time had come for [ethnic] Russians to occupy their rightful place in the life of the state and society.
The advertising campaign was spectacular and, basically, prophetic. Soon we experienced the feeling of nationwide joy over Crimea’s reunification with Russia. Slavic Yard was the first Russian company to put up billboards in Crimea. “The Russians are coming!” was the slogan on the billboards.
In April 2016, Slavic Yard erected new billboards on the Rublyovo-Uspenskoe Highway. They feature Irina Volina in a spectacular Russian costume sharing new political maxims [with motorists] in the hope that her counsels will go from being edicts [sic] to habitual norms of life.
“Russia is an imperial power, God’s last hope on Earth.”
“Beauty is faith’s sword in the hands of the wise.”
“The seeker of wisdom marches eastward; he who loves vanity runs to the west.”
“Happiness is having a home and family in Russia.”
“I was born and baptized in Russia; I pray for the Russian tsar and God.”
Irina Volina’s latest appeal could not help become the subject of numerous discussions and arguments. Let us try and get to them to the bottom of them, with help from Irina Volina herself.
Irina Volina: “The Decline of Europe and Slavic Yard”
Slavic Yard’s advertising campaign is hardly typical of a real estate agency. It contains none of the usual appeals to buy housing. There is no information about discounts or any reference to commerce at all. Rather, it resembles a social project, for the information is real food for thought. It really forces you to think. Why did you decide to choose this format?
Irina Volina: I should immediately note that Slavic Yard’s advertising campaign was not designed to reach a maximum audience. Our market segment is quite narrow, buyers of elite real estate, and that enables us to go for non-standard solutions. Non-standard solutions are always a plus. Advertising shouldn’t be boring: everyone is tired of appeals to buy things and discounts. Besides, boring ads are ineffective.
I am convinced that always being one step ahead is an important ingredient of success. It makes sense to focus not only on business. You also have to keep track of the political and economic situation in the country, and respond quickly to social change. That’s what we do.
Does the fact that standard advertising no longer works testify to changes that have occurred in the market?
Irina Volina: Definitely. The difference between what the market was in the early 2000s and what it is today is colossal. Alas, not all businessmen are ready to accept this. Many of them prefer to operate according to the old schemes, focusing on consumer marketing and western economic models. But they do not function today in modern Russian society. And there is every reason to believe that very soon these methods will join the category of business atavisms.
What is consumer marketing, in your understanding?
Irina Volina: Simplifying, we can describe it as follows. You invest money, quickly earn more money, invest it again, earn more, buy a little house in Europe—
In recent years, that is how it has been.
Irina Volina: Yes, and what has been happening to the Homeland has been of little interest to those who have been buying up real estate in Europe.
Meaning you think buying real estate in Europe is impractical? Many brokers would not agree with you. Even today they regard purchasing real estate abroad as a good investment.
Irina Volina: Yes, I am convinced it is impractical, and from every point of view. The most sensible thing you can do now is sell your overseas property, if you have it, and invest the money in housing in your native land. I say this not only as a patriot of my country but as an expert. And I emphasize that now there are excellent opportunties for selling foreign real estate. But this will not last long, and a delay in making a decision could be costly. Owners of property in Europe might end up holding the bag.
Extremely favorable conditions for acquiring real estate in Russia are now taking shape. There might not be another such chance. The prices are in flux, and even properties that just yesterday were inaccessible to well-off people are today being put up for sale at an acceptable, reasonable cost.
Tell us more, please, about Slavic Yard’s new slogans? What is the idea behind them?
As attempts to build kingdoms of universal welfare, perestroika in the USSR and the creation of the European Union have been complete failures. Goethe wrote, “GOD will be forced to destroy everything, to began Creation anew.” “Beauty is faith’s sword in the hands of the wise,” and today we can say the destruction has begun with [Goethe’s] beloved Germany, due to the unification of both its parts, as paradoxical as that sounds. Gorbachev and Yeltsin erected Germany on a shaky pedestal (and that, by the way, is why they did not take reparations from the Germans), which was a step into the abyss.
The twenty-first century rightly belongs to Russia. The axis mundi is located in Russia. Russia is the spiritual tie that binds, an imperial force based not on power but on spiritual discipline, which enables man to prevail on the elements of the world by means other than technology. Thus, “Russia is an imperial power, God’s last hope on Earth.”
Marxism and capitalism were finished when scientists realized that technology enslaves rather than liberates man. The fight against infectious diseases has led to the increase of diseases, vascular diseases and others. When it rains, it pours. Russian ideology today is meant to push its slavish, imaginary fascination with the west to the edge of its spirit, but here we must take into account the old theatrical principle: if a gun appears in the first act it will go off in the last. It is the same thing with the large numbers of members of the Russian intelligentsia who have been educated in the west. We should recall that Old Rome abducted the children of vassal kings and held them as hostages. Of course, these children were educated “so it would not be repugnant to be served by savages.” Much later, the nimble English established their own industry for educating the children of foreigners.
Here we should also note the colossal tragedy of current church apparatchiks, who were educated in the west, and whose minds have been tailored to serving the western financial and other aristocracies. By virtue of their customary intellectual bondage, they are incapable of comprehending Europe’s collapse, of comprehending that their king is not only naked but also dead. “The seeker of wisdom marches eastward; he who loves vanity runs to the west.”
“Eastward” means home, while “he who loves vanity” is the person accustomed to providing services. The balance between the spirit and the customary service environment has been lost forever.
Russia is meant to play its own prominent role in the history of the modern world thanks to the spiritual capital that the family of its nations has amassed, but only if it returns to its historical form of governance, monarchy. All the brilliant, God-fearing sons and daughters of our Fatherland will take up their rightful places around the throne.
“The tsar will come when we are able to defend him,” a spiritual man told me. And when I deal with my clients I make a point of asking them whether their sons have served in the Russian Army. So, continuing the tradition of our great forebears, we say, “I was born and baptized in Russia; I pray for the Russian tsar and God.”
As an expert, what forecasts for 2016-2017 would you give to Russian entrepreneurs?
Irina Volina: It is now obvious that the fashion for everything European—lifestyle, housing, education for children of the elite—is passing. Fascination with the west is a thing of the past, and it was not the most glorious past. Let me remind you that it was in past years that Russia exited the political arena, becoming a raw materials appendage for wheeler-dealers who had no sense of honor. Happily, today we can talk about it as something really past. Gradually, the awareness has been dawning that any business in Russia must have a social focus and facilitate the strengthening of our state. You cannot plunder the land forever. Everything has its limit. The past is yielding to the present and future, the period of the New Russian Empire’s Renaissance. It will not be easy, of course. A renaissance is always a time of work. Despite the complexity and length, this period is joyful. It is impossible not to rejoice, feeling the ground beneath one’s feet, watching the construction of a successful, happy future for children, and realizing this future is inextricably bound up with Russia. It has begun in Russia.
Your convictions and your stance are all reflected one way or another in the Slavic Yard advertising campaign? But for whom are the slogans on the billboards intended?
Irina Volina: Perhaps my answer will seem unusual, but they are primarily a sign to Heaven that we Russian entrepreneurs, residents of Rublyovka and elsewhere, are ready to create a Native Land. It is evidence of devotion to our profession and to our state. A sign that we remember who we are.
Our slogans are a message to [ethnic] Russian people, to Russian citizens, to members of the Russian elite. The slogans are reminders that the time of “windows to Europe” has passed, that delight with the European lifestyle has become a thing of the past. It is time to strengthen our families and beautify the state. It is time to settle in our native land by buying homes for our families and children in Russia. And Slavic Yard is ready to help. Happiness is having a home and family in Russia.
Translated by the Island of Misfit Toys. Images courtesy 0f Slavic Yard