Michael Pearson

The Sealed Train
Chapter 8

While the Others in the train peered into the Sunday-evening dusk as the snow-covered pine trees flashed past the windows, Lenin studied some copies of Pravda that soldiers traveling on the train had given him.  “He shook his head and threw up his hands in despair,” recorded Zinoviev as Lenin read about Milyukov and his obvious determination to continue telling the Russian people that the war was in their interest.  What angered him even more was the attitude taken by Pravda now that Kamenev and Stalin had taken over its direction—in direct disobedience to his order.1

Kamenev had set a policy in the columns of the party newspaper that tacitly supported the war.  “It would be the most stupid policy,” he had written, “when an army faces the enemy, to urge it to lay down arms and go home.  That would be a policy, not of peace but of serfdom, a policy to be contemptuously rejected by the free nation.”

Meanwhile, young Robert, still watched closely by Nadya, perched himself on the lap of a veteran soldier, put his arms around his neck and babbled in French to him.  The soldier shared his paskha, the traditional cheesecake that Russians eat at Easter, with him.

“Our people,” recorded Nadya, “were glued to the windows.  On the platforms of the stations through which we passed, soldiers stood about in bunches.  Ussievich put his head out of the window and yelled :  ‘Long live the world revolution !’  The troops looked in amazement at us travelers.”

Lenin, seeking some quiet in which to work, moved with Krupskaya into the end seats of an open carriage.  The train was third-class, the only lighting “a spluttering candle.”  But again he did not get much chance.  First a lieutenant, walking through the train, stopped and started a conversation, fiercely opposing Lenin’s view that the war must be ended.  And then gradually soldiers gathered, listened to the argument and entered into it.  Eventually the crowd in the carriage became so great that men even climbed into the luggage racks.

Lenin was very skilled at talking to young or uneducated people, starting always by asking them their opinions, making them talk, often displaying his own opinions by putting very short, even one-word questions.  Invariably when the soldiers pressed him, so Zina reported, he would say, “No, you speak first.”

George Safarov found one soldier who was a regular reader of Pravda and “took him as a trophy to Ilyich.” Probably it was this man who agreed with Lenin that they should end the war by “sticking their bayonets into the ground.”

It was another, however, who reflected the views of most of the men gathered in the carriage.  “How,” he asked skeptically, “is it possible to finish the war by sticking your bayonet into the ground ?”

Lenin took careful note, for he realized that his questioner was typical, that there were millions who thought as he did—millions whom the Bolsheviks would have to swing to their viewpoint by “patiently explaining.”2

Lenin had told the soldiers, according to Zina, that they were tired of the war, which was no doubt true.  But they were not so tired of it that they were prepared to give up all that they had been fighting for.  Lenin realized, Zinoviev recalled, that “the defensist view is still a strength to be reckoned with.”

It was another reason to fear that the travelers would be arrested on their arrival in Russia.  For the Sealed Train would be much easier to explain away to men who wanted to end the war than to those who wanted to continue it, who regarded the Germans as hated enemies.

All Monday the train ran on through Finland, gradually curving east as it approached the south of the country.  By the evening they were approaching the frontier of the Russian homeland.

Beloostrov, the little Russian-Finnish border town, was the first danger point, an obvious place for a unit of Cossacks or Junkers, the elite officer cadet corps, to be waiting to arrest them.


There were no troops at Beloostrov, as the comrades peering anxiously out of the train windows as it approached the border town, would soon realize.  But there was a large crowd of workers who, alerted by Bolshevik agitators, had walked “several versts” from the Sestroretsk munitions plant.

It was already dark—and drizzling—as the party welcoming committee of “about 20” waited under cover in the station.  Maria, Lenin’s younger sister, who had not seen her brother and sister-in-law since she had stayed with them in Paris before the war, was there—together with Kamenev and Shlyapnikov and Ludmilla Stahl, an old friend of the Ulyanovs, and Theodor Raskolnikov, a young midshipman who was the main Bolshevik leader at Kronstadt, the nearest naval base to Petersburg.3

On the journey to Beloostrov from Petersburg, Kamenev had said to Raskolnikov, “You have to know Ilyich to realize how much he hates festive occasions.”  The two men had laughed, for a festive occasion was certainly awaiting him that night.

“At last,” recalled Raskolnikov, “we saw three blinding lights [on the engine] and, after that, the illuminated carriage windows moving slower . . . slower . . . slower. . . .”

Lenin stared in astonishment at the cheering crowd on the platform.  As he stepped down from the carriage, he was grabbed, lifted shoulder high and carried to the Bolshevik welcoming committee.  He had never experienced this kind of exuberant treatment, and he did not like it.  “Careful, comrades,” he said, according to one of them.  “Gently there, comrades.”

But his anxiety was only momentary.  He was overwhelmed by his welcome.  When the workers put him down, he embraced his sister and his friends and even the delighted Raskolnikov, whom he had never met.

To the Bolshevik leader’s surprise, the commander of the town, appointed by the Provisional Government, even approached him and welcomed him with stiff but friendly formality.

“We had barely had time to greet Ilyich,” recalled Raskolnikov, “when Kamenev came into the hall with Zinoviev, beaming and excited.”  He introduced Raskolnikov to Gregory.  Since the militant midshipman had thousands of sailors he could fast mobilize whenever required, the two men would soon know each other very well.

Responding to the demands of the crowd, Lenin climbed onto a chair to address them.  He was wearing his old gray overcoat, but he had changed the brimmed hat in which he had left Switzerland for a peaked worker’s cap.  According to engine driver Elmsted, who had not realized until he had stopped his train at Beloostrov who was aboard it, the Bolshevik leader was in an aggressive mood, despite his happiness to be back in Russia.  “Russian workers,” he asked, “to whom did you give the power you took from the Tsar ?  You gave it to the landowners and capitalists !”

“It’s only for the time being,” shouted someone from the crowd.

When Lenin had stepped down, Ludmilla Stahl urged Nadya to say a few words to the women workers in the crowd, but she declined, too overwhelmed by the scene around her.  “All words had left me ;  I could say nothing.”

The bell on the train summoned the passengers back aboard.  As soon as they were in the carriage, Lenin rounded on Kamenev.  “What have you been writing in Pravda?” he demanded.  “We’ve seen a few numbers and called you all sorts of names.”  But he said it with a smile-without “offense,” as Raskolnikov described it—knowing that Kamenev of all people was loyal to him, that there must have been a sound reason, perhaps even then realizing that the mood in the city would have made the exact execution of his orders dangerous for the party.

He was to find, however, that Kamenev was not quite as malleable as he had been.  Perhaps his long exile had hardened him and reinforced his natural inclination toward the right wing of the party.  It was fourteen years since Lev Borisovich, then only twenty-one, had first written to him in Geneva from the Caucasus.  They had never met, but Lenin had been pleased, remarking in his reply how “rarely do people write to us, not in ‘duty bound’ but to exchange ideas.  Please write more often. . . . I would say that your article is unquestionable evidence of your literary ability. . . .”  Since Kamenev had become one of the Troika, Lenin had often been angry with him—usually on account of his “carelessness” which Lenin would either attack him for directly or complain about to his friend Zinoviev.  “I am furious with you . . .” he had written from Cracow, for example, in 1912 when Kamenev was still in Paris.  “You did not arrange for letters from the Congress. . . . You made Koba [Stalin] lose most precious time.”

But this April evening, in the border station packed with a welcoming crowd, was not the time to harangue his big bearded friend who had plenty of surprises awaiting him that night.

Lenin bombarded him with questions—so intensely that when someone interrupted him to ask him to speak again to the crowd, he snapped, “Let Gregory go and say a few words.”  Which he did from the platform of the carriage before the train pulled out of the station with the crowd roaring.

One question Lenin asked Kamenev was :  “Are we going to be arrested in Petersburg?”  “Our friends who had come to meet us,” wrote Zinoviev, “did not give a precise answer.  They only smiled mysteriously.”

Once the train halted at a small station that, like Beloostrov, was crowded with workers from the Sestroretsk plant.  Hands were thrust through the windows, and Lenin made a short speech before, to the clanging of the bell, the train moved on toward Petersburg.


Meanwhile, the news of Lenin’s imminent arrival was under consideration in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Petersburg.  Nuratov, Milyukov’s deputy, read three long notes about it from the British and French ambassadors.

All three emphasized that Lenin had traveled through Germany and stressed the danger that he represented.  Buchanan, in particular, made much of the threat of his potential influence within the Soviet.  Nuratov, however, was not too bothered.  He reflected the view of Milyukov, his minister, who was blithely conducting a foreign policy almost exactly the same as that of the Tsar.  None of the other ministers was very concerned as to the damage that Lenin might cause to the fragile government that the revolution had set up—except Kerensky, whom Lenin had already singled out from Switzerland as his main potential adversary and who did not now underrate the Bolshevik leader.  Already, at a Cabinet discussion about extremists, according to Minister Nabokov, Kerensky had declared “with his usual hysterical giggle :  ‘Just you wait, Lenin is coming, then the real thing will begin !’ ”

Despite the warning, the ministers refused to be alarmed.  Calmly, Nuratov attached a note to the file of memoranda, scribbling in pencil :  “All the information from these three sources should appear in the newspapers tomorrow without fail, with no mention of the sources, and the cooperation of the German Government should be stressed.”  It was the first move to turn the Sealed Train journey into a national scandal.


“The throng in front of the Finland Station blocked the whole square, making movement almost impossible and scarcely letting the trams through,” recorded N.N. Sukhanov of that momentous night.  “Troops with bands were drawn up under red flags near the side entrance, in the former imperial waiting rooms.

“There was a throbbing of many motorcars.  In two or three places the awe-inspiring outlines of armored cars thrust up from the crowd.  And from one of the side streets there moved out onto the square, startling the mob and cutting through it, a strange monster—a mounted searchlight. . .”

Within the station, triumphal arches in red and gold, erected every few yards, stretched the length of the platform above the heads of the mass of waiting people.  Banners, bearing “every possible welcoming inscription and revolutionary slogan,” hung above several divisions of guards of honor—soldiers from various barracks, sailors and the Bolshevik armed civilian Red Guards.

At the end of the platform was a band and a small group of Bolsheviks that included Alexandra Kollontai, holding a bouquet of flowers, and Vladimir Bonch-Bruevich, who had lived intimately in Geneva with Lenin and Nadya and was now in charge of producing the party literature.  He was a broad, cheerful man, with a beard and steel-rimmed glasses.

All day, from early in the morning, Bolshevik agitators had been touring the barracks and the working-class areas of the city displaying streamers and pasting posters on the walls bearing the curt message :  “Lenin arrives today.  Meet him.”  Because it was Easter Monday, the factories were closed.  No newspapers were on sale.  Many troops were off duty, but by evening the news had spread through the capital, and long processions, banners flying, were on their way to the Finland Station.

During those early weeks, it was the custom to greet returning revolutionary leaders with a parade.  Only a few days before, Plekhanov had arrived at the Finland Station to be welcomed by a large crowd, but Sukhanov, who was a Menshevik, was deeply impressed by the arrangements to meet Lenin.  “The Bolsheviks, who shone at organization and always aimed at. . . putting on a good show had dispensed with any superfluous modesty and were plainly preparing a real triumphal entry.

“This time, however, they had special reason for making a point of presenting Lenin to the Petersburg masses as a real hero.  Lenin was traveling to Russia via Germany in a Sealed Train by the special favor of the enemy government . . . it was clear that the bourgeoisie and all its hangers-on would make appropriate use of it.  And something had to be done to counterbalance the repulsive campaign that was already under way.”

The train was late, and in what was once the Tsar’s private room two men waited with resigned impatience to greet the Bolshevik leader formally on behalf of the Petersburg Soviet.  Ironically, one of them, the chairman of the Soviet, was the grizzled Georgian Nicholas Chkheidze, whom Lenin had long characterized as a dangerous opportunist.  The other was another senior member of the Soviet’s Executive Committee, M.I. Skobelev.

Sukhanov, also a member of the Executive Committee but present unofficially, was amused by the scene in the Tsar’s waiting room, knowing how both men felt about Lenin.  “A dejected Chkheidze sat, weary of the long wait and reacting sluggishly to Skobelev’s witticisms,” he wrote.

At ten minutes past eleven the train steamed into the crowded station, and Lenin and his party stared through the windows at the almost unbelievable sight before them.  “Only now,” commented Zinoviev later, “did we understand the mysterious smiles of our friends.”

With wonder, Nadya watched the scene on the platform and recalled that only a few hours back, after the train had left Tornio, she and Lenin had been discussing the problems of arriving so late at the Finland Station :  At that time of night on Easter Monday would they be able to get a droshky to take them to Mark and Anna’s apartment in Shirokaya Street ?

As soon as the train came to a stop, Bonch-Bruevich recorded, the reception committee “rushed up to the carriages.  Vladimir Ilyich followed by Nadezhda Konstantinovna alighted from the fifth coach from the head of the train.”

The bands, both inside and outside the station, blared the “Marseillaise”—since, so it emerged later, the musicians had not been free of Tsarist rule long enough yet to learn the “Internationale.”  Alexandra Kollontai thrust her large bouquet of flowers into Lenin’s hands.  The waiting officers rapped out their commands, and the guards of honor presented arms.

“That very instant,” reported Bonch-Bruevich, “the hubbub died down.  All that could be heard was the blare of trumpets.  Then suddenly, as if everything had come into motion, there thundered forth such a powerful, stirring and hearty ‘Hurrah’ as I have never heard in all my life.

“We approached the sailors.  Observing the full ceremonial parade procedure the ensign in command reported to Vladimir Ilyich who looked at him perplexed. . . .

“I whispered to him that the sailors wanted to hear him speak.  Vladimir Ilyich walked past the guard of honor. . . . He took several steps back along the front rank of this guard of honor . . . halted, took off his hat.”

“Sailors, comrades,” said Lenin, “as I greet you, I still don’t know whether you have faith in all the promises of the Provisional Government.  What I know for certain though is that when sweet promises are made, you are being deceived in the same way that the entire Russian people are being deceived. . . . Sailors, comrades, we have to fight for a socialist revolution, to fight until the proletariat wins full victory !  Long live the worldwide socialist revolution !”

When Lenin had finished speaking, he found himself facing a young man he knew very well—Ivan Chugurin, who had been a student at the party school in Longjumeau.  Chugurin, “his face wet with tears,” as Nadya put it, wearing a broad red sash across his shoulders, presented him formally with a Bolshevik party card “in honor of your return home. . . . The Bolsheviks of the Vyborg district regard you as a member of their district organization.”

Lenin was deeply moved, for the industrial district of Vyborg, whose workers had sparked off the March Revolution, was the most militant of all the Bolshevik area organizations.

He moved along the platform, under the triumphal arches, between the rows of welcoming troops and workers.

In the Tsar’s rooms, “the gloomy Chkheidze,” as Sukhanov called him, waited to receive him.  At the head of a group of people, Lenin “came or rather ran into the room . . . he stopped in front of Chkheidze as though colliding with a completely unexpected obstacle.”

Speaking in a monotone as if delivering a sermon, Chkheidze greeted him in the name of the Petersburg Soviet.  “Comrade Lenin . . . we welcome you to Russia . . . but”—Sukhanov described it as a “delicious ‘but’ ”—“we think that the principal task of the revolutionary democracy is now the defense of the revolution. . . . We consider that what this goal requires is not disunion, but a closing of the democratic ranks.  We hope you will pursue these goals together with us.”

Lenin stood there “as though nothing taking place had the slightest connection with him—looking about him, examining the persons round him and even the ceiling of the imperial waiting room, adjusting his bouquet (rather out of tune with his whole appearance).”

He did not even reply to Chkheidze but instead addressed the group of people who had followed him into the waiting room.  His theme was exactly as Chkheidze had feared.  He congratulated them as “the vanguard of the worldwide proletarian army. . . . The predatory imperialist war is the beginning of civil war throughout Europe. . . . The worldwide socialist revolution has already dawned. . . . Germany is seething. . . . Any day now the whole of European capitalism may crash. . . . Long live the worldwide socialist revolution !”

The people outside the doors were hammering on the glass, demanding that Lenin leave the privacy of the imperial waiting room.  He moved out into the square, packed tight with tens of thousands of people, illuminated by the harsh white beam of the searchlight.  He still seemed overwhelmed by the gigantic reception, still uncertain what exactly he was supposed to do.

He tried to get into a car that was waiting for him, but the workers around it refused to let him.  He clambered onto the hood and made another short speech.  Sukhanov could only catch a few words :  “. . . Shameful imperialist slaughter . . . lies and frauds . . . capitalist pirates. . . .”

Nicholas Podvoisky, one of the commanders of the Bolshevik Military Organization, had by now taken charge of his leader.  At first, they got into the car from which Lenin had spoken, but they could not move forward because of the human crush.  So Podvoisky suggested that they should travel on one of the armored cars that was nearby and elbowed a way for Lenin through the milling people.

From the turret, Lenin made yet another short speech addressing the expanse of faces—dark beneath the glare of the searchlight—and again the crowd cried its welcome.

The roar as the engine of the armored car was revved helped to clear a path, and very slowly the heavy vehicle moved across the square.  From the turret, Lenin, still clad in peaked cap and overcoat—for the April night was cold—surveyed the incredible scene around him, the thousands of people, the banners with revolutionary slogans, the flaming torches that many were carrying.

The adjoining streets were crowded with the overflow from the square, and the noise of the armored car, as it proceeded, attracted others from the nearby houses.

At every street intersection the vehicle halted, and Lenin had to make another speech, ending each time, according to Podvoisky with the defiant shout :  “Long live the socialist revolution !  Down with the compromisers !”

After stopping some fifteen times, Lenin arrived eventually at the white brick Kshesinskaya Mansion, where yet another crowd in the Alexandrovsky Park that bordered the house awaited a speech—this time from the first-floor balcony, from which Lenin could see the nearby lights of the Peter and Paul Fortress, where Sasha had been held until he was executed.

The city’s reception had been a magnificent demonstration of the party’s skill at stage management, for only a handful of that vast crowd had been Bolsheviks, and a large proportion of those cheering people did not agree with many of Lenin’s views—especially about the war.  “Ought to stick our bayonets into a fellow like that,” commented one angry soldier listening to Lenin speaking from the Kshesinskaya balcony as Sukhanov stood near, “must be a German . . . or he ought to be.”  It was the way a large number of soldiers would be thinking during the next few days when the significance—or even the as yet largely unknown facts—of the Sealed Train journey began to be fully appreciated.

“Supper,” recorded Podvoisky, “was laid in one of the first floor rooms.  There, gathered at the long table around Lenin, were some sixty activists from the Petersburg Bolshevik organization.”

Inevitably, the ubiquitous Sukhanov was present, despite the fact that he was not a Bolshevik, though his wife was.  He was editor of Letopis (“Chronicle”), a newspaper owned by Maxim Gorky, to which Lenin had contributed from exile.  For a few minutes he sat next to Lenin, talking about the leading members of the Soviet, until Kamenev called out to him from the other end of the table, “Nikolai Nikolayevich, that’s enough.  You can finish later.  You’re taking Ilyich away from us.”

Kamenev did not get much chance to talk to his leader, for a crowd of sailors from Kronstadt had arrived outside the mansion and wanted to extend a formal welcome.  Once more Lenin went onto the balcony, where Simon Roshal greeted him on behalf of the men.  To the sailors gathered below him in the Alexandrovsky Park, Lenin declared, “The words ‘Socialist Revolution’ could not be closer to the hearts of the comrades at Kronstadt !” and a great cheer roared in response.

Lenin was barely given a chance to eat that night, for other rooms in the mansion were crowded with party workers who wanted to hear him.  “Someone suggested that the talk be given in the grand hall where only recently the ballerina Kshesinskaya had given sumptuous banquets,” wrote Podvoisky.

This was a big room on the ground floor, with enormous plate-glass windows hung with heavy velvet curtains.  White silk-upholstered furniture was ranged along the walls.  One end of the room, which opened onto the lawn, was curved.  It featured an indoor winter garden with big palm trees and a stream that cascaded over rocks.

A table was was brought for Lenin, and he took his place at it with Nadya and his two sisters.  His audience sat on chairs facing him.

There were a number of welcoming speeches by members from various Bolshevik district committees.  Of all of them, Zina Zinovieva was most moved by that of Vladimir Nevsky, a veteran Bolshevik who with Podvoisky ran the military arm of the party.  He was a brilliant agitator whom Zina had heard addressing audiences of thousands, yet in the emotion of the moment, “he delivered a speech stammering and stuttering.”

“What was the matter with you, Comrade Vladimir ?” she asked him afterward.  “Did you forget how to speak ?”

“I lost myself,” he conceded briefly.

At last, after Kamenev gave the final speech of formal welcome, Lenin stood up and began his speech.  For two hours, without notes, he told the Bolsheviks what he planned the party’s new policy would be.  “I shall never forget that thunderlike speech,” recalled Sukhanov, “which startled and amazed not only me, a heretic who had accidentally dropped in, but all the true believers.  I am certain that no one had expected anything of the sort.”

“The fundamental impression made by Lenin’s speech even among those nearest him,” wrote Trotsky, “was one of fright.  All the accepted formulas, which with innumerable repetition had acquired in the course of a month a seemingly unshakable permanence, were exploded one after another before the eyes of that audience.”

Lenin was not a dramatic speaker.  He did not have the same ability to grab his audiences from the start as Trotsky had.  He rarely used wit or pathos or even overt emotion.  Nevertheless, he was an orator of enormous intellectual impact, “breaking down complicated systems into the simplest and most generally accessible element,” as Sukhanov put it, “and hammering, hammering, hammering them into the heads of his audience until he took them captive.”

He told his listeners that the war could not help turning into a civil class war.  He attacked the existing leaders of the Soviet as “opportunists” and “instruments of the bourgeoisie” and even mocked the celebrated manifesto, issued on March 14, which had called for “worldwide socialist revolution.”  “Revolutions are not called for,” he sneered.  “They arise out of historically established conditions, revolutions mature and grow.”

His attack on the Soviet leaders and policies was “alone enough to make his listeners’ heads spin,” as Sukhanov observed, because they were creations of the revolution.  Kamenev had pledged them the party’s cooperation.  The ruling mood, as Chkheidze had indicated in his greeting at the station, was one of all parties working together for the revolution.

Lenin emphasized that he at least was not in favor of working together.  He was for revolution, for power in the hands of the people, not the control of the bourgeoisie which had it now.  He announced his new concept, crystallized almost certainly during those long hours on the Sealed Train probably after a meeting with the Germans in Berlin, his plan for an immediate leap into socialism, which all Marxists knew was impossible.  And he proposed to call for “all power to the Soviets,” which seemed to his listeners equally impractical.  The Soviet was a loose federation of strike committees.  How could its 2,000 or 3,000 members, inevitably torn by political differences, ever rule a nation ?

The interesting question is whether Lenin ever intended it to ?  Was the proposal entirely tactical, designed to produce a situation in which the party could seize power ?  “All power to the Soviet” was an appealing slogan which the Bolsheviks could promote without being charged with self-interest, since they were at present only a minority within it.  But it was a slogan he had not mentioned before the journey on the Sealed Train.  Now with the fact of the availability of German funds Lenin knew he could put it across.

There is no doubt that in practice in the months that followed, both before and after November, Lenin always put power for the party before power for the Soviet.

In any event, even if he was truly considering the ideologically appealing concept of an all-powerful Soviet at this moment, he was far ahead of his shocked listeners.

For they were intent on protecting the revolution which they had helped create—and in this, Lenin believed, they were pursuing an illusion sold them by the bourgeois.  Lenin was preparing for the next revolution.

Certainly, in his speech that night, Lenin insisted that his plan for Soviet power was sound.  “We don’t need a parliamentary republic,” he declared, denouncing this basic Marxist tenet.  “We don’t need a bourgeois democracy, we don’t need any government except the Soviet of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants Deputies.”

After this, his demand for “organized seizure” of the land, though startling as a first stage of bourgeois democracy, seemed relatively mild.

The astounded Sukhanov watched the Bolsheviks applaud their leader at the end of his speech.  “On the faces of the majority, there was nothing but rapture . . . but the literate ones, clapping loud and long, seemed to stare strangely in front of them. . . .”

Heavily, Kamenev rose to his feet.  “Comrades,” he said, “maybe we agree or disagree with the speech of Comrade Lenin.  Maybe we disagree with him on his view of this or that situation ;  but in any case . . . Comrade Lenin has returned to Russia, our brilliant and recognized leader of our party, and together we will go forward to meet socialism.”

“Comrade Kamenev,” commented Raskolnikov somewhat inaccurately, “had found a unifying formula even for those who were still wavering. . . .”

Sukhanov, his journalist’s instincts aroused, did not think he had.  After the meeting, he “looked for Kamenev . . . but in answer to my question as to what he had to say about all this, he merely shrugged his shoulders :  ‘Wait, just wait !’

“As an infidel, I turned to another and then to a third of the faithful. . . . The people I talked to grinned and shook their heads, without the slightest idea of what to say.

“I went out into the street.  I felt as though I had been beaten about the head that night with flails.”

As dawn lightened the Petersburg sky, Lenin and his family walked to the apartment on Shirokaya Street where Anna, Mark Timofeyevich and Maria lived.  He and Nadya were to sleep in the room that had been occupied by his mother until she had died the previous year.

Gora, Anna and Mark’s adopted son, though long asleep, had left a greeting.  Draped across the pillow on each bed was a hand-scrawled notice :  “Workers of the world unite !”

“I hardly spoke to Ilyich that night,” recalled Nadya, “there were really no words to express the experience, everything was understood without words.”




1 Main sources :  See sources for Chapter 4.

2 The Soviet line on this story in the carriage varies from my own.  Safarov, Zinoviev and Zina all suggest in their accounts that the soldiers were “defensists”—supporting the war until victory.  Podvoisky, however, quotes Lenin in his first speech in Petersburg on his arrival night as saying that the soldiers on the train had been unanimously in favor of stopping the war now and made a dramatic gesture to indicate the sticking of their bayonets into the ground.  Sukhanov, who left the most elaborate record of Lenin’s speech, made no reference to this point, though this does not mean it was not made.  However, Podvoisky’s book was published in 1958 after years of Stalin’s rule, when Zinoviev had been almost written out of the history books, and I have relied on three people who were in the carriage at the time.

3 There is disagreement about who was in the welcoming party.  Raskolnikov says that Alexandra Kollontai was there, while Shlyapnikov says she was waiting at the Finland Station with a large bouquet of flowers.  Two accounts, one hopelessly subservient by David Souliashvili and the other by Zinoviev in Pravda in 1924 after Lenin’s death, said that Stalin was there.  No other accounts, not even Krupskaya’s, record his presence.  Almost certainly Zinoviev was being tactful.