The well-know terms ‘February Revolution’ and ‘October Revolution’according to the Julian calendar become “March Revolution’ and “November Revolution in our present-day Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar will be used throughout this article. My blog is not the proper place to go into detail on the Revolution of 1917 even if I were able to do so. Many books have been written on the subject from diverse conflicting points of view. Controversies continue.
Very briefly: the Russian Revolution of 1917 was in fact a series of revolutions which followed many years of unrest. At the start of 1917, general conditions in Russia and in the industrial area of Petrograd in particular were greatly influenced by the First World War. There had been a series of heavy setbacks for the Russian armies with massive numbers of casualties and disruption of the transport systems. Food supply to the major cities and in Petrograd in particular, had almost come to a halt and the working classes suffered a prolonged shortage of food. The March Revolution led to the abdication of Czar Nicholas II and the installation of a Provisional Government in which Alexander Kerensky played important roles, eventually that of its leader. It was attacked continuously by the Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky who overthrew the Provisional Government in November 1917. This was followed by a civil war between the ‘Whites’ and the ‘Reds’ which was finally won by the ‘Reds’ in 1922.
Moussia during her flight in 1917, travelling from Petrograd to Wladivostok by train (10,000 kms)
On 16th July, 1917, in Petrograd, Vladimir Baranovsky looked out of a window together with his father, Lt.Gen. (Rtd.) Vsevolod S. Baranovsky and watched in horror as a large demonstration of workers, incited by Lenin and Trotsky, was mowed down by the Provisional Government. In Petrograd and also in other cities, like Moscow, the government succeeded in suppressing the revolt. Lenin went into temporary hiding in Finland.
Decades later, Vladimir would tell his relatives in the United States how he had seen the spectacle. It may well be that the two men discussed there and then the possibility of a family escape from Russia, because in the months that followed they wasted no time in preparing and carrying out such a plan. In this family, as in so many others in Russia at the time, opinions and positions differed but they did not give up their loyalty to one another.
Vsevolod, Vladimir’s father, loyal to the Czar, had retired in Finland in 1916. In his luxurious appartment in Helsinki, his daughter Elena had nursed Alexander Kerensky, when he was suffering from recurrent attacks of kidney tuberculosis prior to March 1916 and they had become lovers. In July, as father and son were watching the demonstrations and the shooting, Elena and Alexander, already living together since March when Alexander had asked his wife for a divorce, had moved into the suite of the former Czar Alexander III on the third floor of the Winter Palace, and she was carrying his child.
Father Vsevolod saw no future for his family under a revolutionary government, neither Bolshevik nor a more moderate one. Moreover, the Finnish Assembly had just been dissolved, which the Finns saw as a first step to independence. He decided to leave Finland and go to relatives in the South of Russia.
General Wiktor Sila-Nowicki, the father of Moussia, had been killed in March 1917, reportedly by mutineers who refused to shoot at demonstrators. Moussia, as would emerge later in a press interview on arrival in San Francisco, was pro-Kerensky. This leads me to believe that her choice was influenced by the fact that her father was executed by the Imperial military leadership (like were many of his senior military colleagues during that particular revolt), not by army mutineers.
As will be seen later, Vladimir was in favour of a moderate revolution. He may have been influenced by compassion for the plight of the thousands of starving workers in his family’s munitions and gun factories in Vyborg, where he also was employed.
A decision to go or to stay must have been very difficult for Vladimir’s sister Vera. The actress, already very successful on the stage in Moscow, must have been torn between her loyalties to her family and to her Moscow Academic Arts Theatre and her career.
When Moussia and Vladimir fled, they hoped and even believed that they would be able to return to Russia in a few years, as will be seen later.
Vladimir went into action immediately. He obtained a passport already in August. It is virtually certain that Vladimir could get this passport in that turbulent month only by special permission of Kerensky. He knew Kerensky personally not only via Elena but also because Olga, who was still Kerensky’s lawful wife, was the daughter of his uncle Lev. She was the older sister of his cousin and namesake Vladimir Lvovich, who was Alexander Kerensky’s faithful Chef-de-Cabinet since April 1917, when Kerensky became the Minister of War and had promoted him to the rank of General.
Different pages of this passport will appear in various forthcoming articles because they provide information of the most diverse kind.
Let us first inspect the grounds on which the passport was issued.
The stamp on the left: The prefect of Petrograd
The round stamp on the right (better readable on the next pages where it is repeated) and the horizontal stamp at the top:
“Commissar caretaker government over the former prefect of Petrograd”
Signed by: Colonel-Lieutenant Samson
Russia changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar on 31 January 1918 (followed by Thursday, 14 February 1918), so according to the Gregorian calendar the passport was issued on 31 August 1917.
(to be continued)