That map is going to make a lot of Althistory Map Painters ITTL froth at the mouth. They'll still be salty the smaller color beat the bigger color.
That map is going to make a lot of Althistory Map Painters ITTL froth at the mouth. They'll still be salty the smaller color beat the bigger color.
It wouldn't be the first time.

"Hey, King George! Remember 1776? Deutschland uber alles, you [CENSORED] limeys."

- random German-American, during a pro-CP rally, 1916
Screenshot_2021-05-21 Wikipedia Military Box Editor.png
Wouldn't more of the actual commanders be mentioned in this? Rather than just the leaders of the relevant nations.
Outside of that nicely done.
Usually wikiboxes will do both, though with this many countries and this many generals, it would be too long a list.

Fwiw, the actual OTL WWI Wikibox on wikipedia does the same thing - just listing national leaders.
Wouldn't more of the actual commanders be mentioned in this? Rather than just the leaders of the relevant nations.
Outside of that nicely done.
Usually wikiboxes will do both, though with this many countries and this many generals, it would be too long a list.

Fwiw, the actual OTL WWI Wikibox on wikipedia does the same thing - just listing national leaders.
yeah here a OTL WWI Wikibox

Screenshot_2021-05-22 World War I - Wikipedia.png
It wouldn't be the first time.

"Hey, King George! Remember 1776? Deutschland uber alles, you [CENSORED] limeys."

- random German-American, during a pro-CP rally, 1916

As accompaniment...

"That's the way, you Hun bastards. Kick King George right up where the Sun don't shine! For Eire!"
- random Irish-American, during a pro-CP rally, 1916
Chapter 48: The May Day General Strike
Chapter Forty-Eight: The May Day General Strike

"You may rest assured, Your Imperial Majesty. It is nothing. Within forty-eight hours the Army will have complete control."
-Georgi Lvov to Tsarina Xenia, May Day 1919

"The French guillotined their monarch and are now a people's state. I say we follow their path!"
-Banner carried by one striker in the General Strike

Tsarist Russia had paid a higher price for liberalism than any country since Revolutionary France. Many in the empire had feared that, as in 1789, events would spiral out of control and the House of Romanov would be forced to flee for its life. Yet, there is a simple reason why the period between the September Revolution and coronation of Tsarina Xenia is known to historians as the “Reform Era”, not the “Revolutionary Era”. Autumn 1916 had seen the end of the Great War nearly destroy the empire. Even as German shells landed in Petrograd, the people turned on Nicholas II, whose incompetence had brought the empire to such lows. Menshevik Julius Martov had been in the right place at the right time and driven the Tsar out of power. Nicholas had ceded the crown to his brother and gone into exile near Smolensk. Tsar Michael II had crushed the insurrection and traded Poland, Finland, western Belarus, and the Baltics for regime security. Though historians have been quick to scorn Michael for his failures, the new emperor saw his brother’s obstinance as a greater threat than reform and believed it fell to him to save Russia from domestic decay. Reactionaries in the Duma had shot his first proposal for a constitution down; they shot him down the second time. The Black Hundreds, for whom Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality superseded the imperial person, had no qualms about removing a ‘betraying’ emperor. Michael’s sudden death left his sister Xenia reigning but not ruling. During the nearly three months between Michael’s death and her coronation, Prime Minister Georgi Lvov had run Russia, and he was in no mood to cede power. Lvov’s first act was to implement Michael’s dream constitution, giving the new regime a more liberal bent than it might’ve had under Michael. An American journalist visiting in autumn 1918 commented on the “new spirit of industry and progress crisscrossing Russia… Though it is perhaps too early to speak definitively, one gets the impression that defeat in the Great War was the cold shock the Tsarist regime needed… The contrast between this Petrograd and the one I visited five years ago is striking.”

It was a pity so little had changed.

Though Russia was now nominally a democracy, it lacked the democratic traditions and viable institutions prevalent in the West. Ever since the eighteenth century, the entire system had been predicated around commands flowing from the Winter Palace through court favourites to the provinces. Like a Roman emperor, the Tsar was half-divine and loyalty to his (or her) person superseded all else. He commanded armies like men on a chessboard and allocated funds as he saw fit. Proximity to the monarch dictated one's position on the social ladder. All this had led Russia to develop a weak political culture ill-suited for a system where the offices themselves were more important than the men occupying them. Nobles continued to throw their pocketbooks around, paying tenant farmers subsistence wages and bribing their way out of taxes. Judges in the capital were always happy to rule in favour of anyone with a title before his name. Police who’d spent their careers beating suspects as they carted them off to prison without trial didn’t want “pencil-necked Jewish lawyers” (as one Muscovite constable so charmingly put it) preventing them from doing their jobs. Magistrates seldom understood why trials needed to be so extensive when beforehand a criminal could be sent to Siberia after half an hour. Liberal nobles- including Georgi Lvov, himself a landed prince- had replaced those reactionaries punished after 15 April. and many of his Duma colleagues were as wealthy as the purged reactionaries. Modernisation certainly didn’t mean ceding their economic supremacy; their concessions to the proletariat didn’t go beyond voluntarily reducing rents and increasing wages.

As 1919 opened, the seeds of the Russian Revolution were already germinating. The entire Russian right, ranging from moderate conservatives to frothing reactionaries, used forthcoming events to attack Tsarina Xenia and constitutionalism. Many of the liberals lucky enough to survive repudiated their ideology and felt personally responsible for the calamity, believing that their actions in 1918 enabled the disastrous 1919.

The ticking of the clock made Georgi Lvov feel like a man on death row. 15 April 1919 was the one-year anniversary of the assault on the Duma and murder of the Tsar, and Lvov was damned if he’d let events get out of hand. The disaffected workers and hyper-nationalists were typically different people; the latter were usually affluent enough not to have to live from one pay-packet to another, and knowledgeable enough not to be swayed by socialist propaganda. They also tended to communicate in less official ways which were harder for the Okhrana to track. Thus, as March turned to April Lvov began having nightmares of a mad Black Hundredsman incinerating him or the Tsarina. What better way to end the disastrous reform era than by lobbing a bomb at its architect? Petrograd went under martial law on the fourteenth to prevent ‘seditious gatherings’ while the Prime Minister covertly discouraged nobles from travelling to the capital. Yet, the riots he’d so feared never materialised. 15 April 1919 was a quiet day in the Russian capital- the rebuilding of the Tauride Palace continued under armed guard and soldiers scowled at anyone they deemed suspicious. Part of this was due to Lvov's show of force- no one wanted to be the first to yell "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality" to an armed man with authority to shoot- but more had to do with the effectiveness of the purges. Those insane enough to attack the Duma were now in prison, and their allies didn't fancy joining them. Lvov sighed and poured himself a large drink as the sunset bathed the capital in pink. The reactionaries were too cowed to threaten his regime again.

As it turned out, that didn’t make any difference.

Petrograd rapidly demobilised following the non-events of 15 April 1919. Martial law in the capital was expensive and made the regime look oppressive. By the end of the week, the last soldiers were back in their previous positions. The Okhrana agents who’d snooped around for any hint of a forthcoming assault on the Duma received leave in Sochi. No one thought about what came only two weeks after the anniversary of the assault on the Duma.

The Communist Second International had consecrated May Day in 1889 to commemorate the Haymarket riots three years prior. For the past thirty years, people had associated the first of the month with the Chicago factory-workers who, depending on whom one talked to, had been brutally cut down by police after reacting to a bomb placed under a false-flag, or attempted a socialist revolution in the heart of America before one of their number set his bomb off too soon, enabling the police to pre-emptively attack. When the quarter-century anniversary came, few had paid much attention. In 1919, though, revolutions had shaken Russia and captured France. The ideology of May Day was finally bearing fruit.

May Day 1919 would outdo the original.

Georgi Lvov had picked an abysmal time to relax. Though the danger from the right had diminished, that threat was totally unconnected to the ever-growing leftist menace. The late Tsar Michael's conservative liberalism might’ve been innovative a century and a half ago, but it did nothing for the people. The French working classes had taken matters into their own hands. Ironically, the regime’s censorship harmed it here (though the absence of proper journalism in revolutionary France contributed). When people read obviously censored articles about the Second French Revolution, they filled in the gaps with what made sense to them. The Russian workingman thus viewed Georges Sorel as a hero who’d liberated the people from conditions even worse than these, blind to the failings inherent in the system. Deluded by whispers that Lvov had orchestrated 15 April to crush them and lacking confidence in the Tsarina, they decided to use this international day of labour to express their rage.

Against all odds, the fearsome Tsarists were caught off-guard.

Historians have been as scathing as contemporaries were towards the Okhrana for its role in the forthcoming General Strike. Namely: it played no role. The security apparatus Russians had dreaded for decades, which had sent revolutionaries to freeze in Siberian fields or given them brutal deaths in dingy urban prisons, which had opened letters and arrested at will for more than half a century, failed to prevent the May Day General Strike. This cost the organisation all its prestige and its leader his job, but when viewed from a certain perspective, their inertia made sense. Russia’s greatest domestic threats had been the Black Hundreds and their supporters- with the blood of a Tsar on their hands- who’d felt free to riot in the heart of Petrograd. Lvov directed the secret police against it accordingly. 15 April 1919 passed, he congratulated the Okhrana on having defeated a major national security threat. Just as May Day drew near, the feared secret police lowered its guard. Second, the Okhrana overemphasised the Menshevik-Bolshevik split, and made a crucial error about the relative strength of the two factions. The Mensheviks, not the Bolsheviks, had launched the September Revolution, and the two were now enemies. The mistake the Okhrana made was partially in assuming that the Mensheviks were the stronger of the two groups because they had more revolutionary experience under their belt, and that whatever the one did, the other would oppose. Thus, after the publication of Stand With the Majority, Die With the Minority, the secret police relieved the pressure on known Bolsheviks. They ordered their many agents in Finland not to assassinate major Bolsheviks while redoubling their efforts against Mensheviks. Ideally, Georgi Lvov told himself, the Bolsheviks would move against Julius Martov’s next stab at revolution so as to prevent him from seizing the glory of having deposed the Tsarina!

Lvov was similarly lenient towards unions. They’d been legal on paper since 1906 but the police had always discouraged them from meeting. However, the social turmoil of the war and Reform Era changed things somewhat. From just under 5% in 1914, roughly one in five Russian labourers was unionised by the two-year anniversary of the September Revolution. Forcibly eradicating them would’ve touched off too strong a popular reaction, but at the same time they made Russia’s elite uneasy. “We are sitting on a time bomb”, commented Alexander Kerensky (a liberal noble if ever there was one), “give the workers a sense of power and things will explode.” The unions had much to be angry over. Capitalists had no qualms about making workers put in twelve or fourteen hours a day for less than nothing. Though striking was now technically legal, hiring goons to break demonstrations and skulls wouldn’t get anyone into trouble. Ukraine remained unruly: while it was officially just ‘southwest Russia’ and represented in the Duma, only soldiers in the streets of Kiev and Odessa kept people from a bid for independence or autonomy. This impeded the ability to collect the harvest, which drove prices up for the consumer- inflation didn't help. Reliance on public charity increased, and since the government was in charge of shipping grain from Ukraine to the cities, government agencies got the lion’s share of the food- after corruption and graft had taken their toll, of course. Limiting the amount of bread available on the free market further increased prices. While the new ‘democratic Russia’ enthused some, many investors grew to dread the Tsar’s monarchy. What if they put their hard-earned money into Petrograd, only for proletarian revolutionaries or reactionary militias to burn it to the ground? Foreign enterprises shuttered their windows, throwing many industrial workers onto the curb. With war-production orders long gone and not much appetite for a luxury goods industry, domestic or foreign, more factories closed their doors. Bosses responded to the increased demand for work by slashing wages further. When the two-year anniversary of the September Revolution came, protestors were driven from the streets with rifle and bayonet.

The Russian workingman was worse off in liberal democratic Russia than he’d been in the realm of Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality.

During the reigns of Nicholas and Michael, moderate labour movements had looked to the Tsar for deliverance, but now they saw through the woman on the throne and had nothing but contempt for Lvov. This lack of manifestoes and protests was more worrying than reassuring. Those who’d appeared on 15 April 1918 to air their grievances had appealed to Tsar Michael as an imperial father, confident that he could improve their lives. They targeted very little of that sentiment towards Xenia. Signs reading ‘A liberal noble is still a nobleman’ and ‘No bread in the Constitution’ were far more menacing than ‘Tsar Michael, Representative of God, Deliver Us From Evil.’ The Black Hundreds were partially responsible. One of the worst aftereffects of 15 April was a conspiracy theory that held that the attack on the Duma had been a trap. Georgi Lvov, rumour had it, had deliberately left the labour protestors waiting outside the Tauride Palace and then summoned the Black Hundreds to murder them all. His brief participation in the September Revolution fuelled rather than diminished the conspiracy theory- he’d betrayed the working people once before! None of this was true. Lvov’s actions for a few days in September 1916 had resulted from accident and miscalculation. His brief cooperation with Martov had been solely to save his own skin, and it seems likely that he would've deserted the revolution even if Tsar Michael hadn't given him the opportunity. Regardless, the average workingman had no love for his Prime Minister, who personified the industrialised callousness which had ground the Russian people down. The unions which Lvov tolerated for their "anti-Martovism" were cauldrons of discontent.

Such blindness would end up costing Lvov dear.

Russians expected the May Day general strike much as a Caribbean weatherman predicts summer hurricanes. Too much had gone wrong for the working class not to make its frustrations known. Even the crucially misinformed Okhrana took steps in the final days of April to detain potential troublemakers in a last-ditch attempt to pre-empt the strikers. However, the general plan was to ride the unrest out. Much like those taking shelter against the elements, the empire’s bosses had plans. They made sure their workers knew that if they didn’t turn up on 1 May, they needn’t turn up on the second. Knowing that they’d be ignored, they posted ‘Help Wanted’ signs near soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Those without work would happily replace the strikers for half the pay while the stronger ones could act as strikebreakers. Police chiefs in Petrograd and Moscow anticipated trouble, but nothing too serious. There would be protests- maybe even riots- to quell, but nothing which would seriously disrupt affairs. Wealthy urbanites decamped for their estates; others stocked up on bread and potatoes to weather the storm in their townhouses. Exhausted with relief that 15 April 1919 had ended well and cognisant that, whatever else they did, the strikers weren’t about to torch the Winter Palace with the Tsarina inside, Georgi Lvov was certain everything would end well.

Trouble started before dawn in the empire’s main cities- all were in one time zone, so these events happened more or less simultaneously. Virtually everybody knew a general strike was en route, but not everyone went along with it. Many who were just barely getting by and knew they’d be fired if they struck weren’t willing to starve so their comrades could feel accomplished. Given that many Russian proletarians lived cheek by jowl in cramped apartments, they rose at four AM and donned their overalls in full view of their striking comrades. Arguments ensued, as strikers called workers ‘sellouts’, and those who were going in asked if the strikers would be willing to pay their bills from now till the end of time. Some of these escalated into fistfights, and some of those ended up with knives and guns being drawn. Perhaps one worker in twenty made it to his factory in the small hours of May Day. Once they arrived, these workers found the entrances blocked by scowling sheets of muscle, the sort of men who even the officers had feared in the trenches. They’d been hired by the bosses to guard their factories, and weren’t too interested in letting individuals through. More often than not, these arguments too ended up with fists and weapons being drawn. All these predawn scuffles distracted the police, who should’ve been asleep during the predawn hours, and made industrialists realise today wasn’t going to go smoothly.

How very right they were.

By midday on 1 May, the Russian Empire was in chaos with urban absenteeism approaching 90% and most aspects of daily life shut down. Businessmen couldn’t commute into the city because not only were the train conductors and engineers on strike, so were the men working on the lines and the girls at the ticket counter. The paralysed rail network didn’t, by itself, have the dire economic consequences foretold, though. One example illustrates: A dockmaster in Odessa was forced to turn away millions of rubles worth of cargo because not a single man had turned up to work. Seven different import-export men howled into the telephone about their finances throughout the day. He didn’t bother coming in on the second.

Independent farmers sat the chaos out, nibbling away at produce they would now never sell, but those working for landed magnates joined their urban comrades. Everyone from farmers in the fields with pitchforks and homemade banners to butlers and chiefs in manors united to paralyse their master’s quasi-feudal estates. In one sense, these strikers were less menacing- few had any prospects off of the estate and thus no incentive to destroy it, which in turn kept their demands more reasonable and specific than their urban counterparts- but their extreme proximity to their overlords and the lack of police soothed no one. The levels of violence on the rural estates varied- while some landlords were beaten or even killed, others reasoned with their striking workers.

With unrest spreading in the countryside, it would only be a matter of time before hunger bit the cities even if the railroads were brought under control.

The empire’s major cities were too focussed on their rage against the regime to contemplate this. Underpaid teachers stayed home, as did secretaries and janitors. No newspapers were printed that morning. Sympathetic journalists refused to make money covering the strike as a matter of solidarity; right-wing journalists found no one willing to set their type and print the papers. Taxi drivers parked their vehicles- motorised or pulled by horses- and grabbed a crimson banner. Postmen and post-office workers refused to touch anybody’s mail, while milkmen and rubbish collectors didn’t make their rounds. Strikers cut telephone and telegraph wires. Hospitals were largely unaffected- no doctor would let politics impede his Hippocratic oath while few nurses were able to let men die on the table in front of them for the sake of labour.

It was a good thing hospitals operated as normal because the Casualty wards filled up rapidly.

Despite the best efforts of industrialists, many factories came under attack. Strikers, many armed with wartime bayonets and pistols, clashed with hired thugs and police outside their places of work. They castigated those who’d tried to sneak in for a day’s pay or had been hired as replacements as “sell-outs” and “traitors to their class”. The fortunate ones escaped with severe beatings; the unfortunate were killed. Knowing they had the law on their side, hired thugs fought back with a vengeance. More than a few were ex-Black Hundreds who were chomping at the bit to get back at the “Martovists” who they believed had stabbed their country in the back. If they couldn’t burn Tsar Michael in the Tauride Palace, they were happy to quench the fire of revolution.

Strikers assemble in central Petrograd, May Day 1919

Georgi Lvov was stunned. This was an order of magnitude above the strikes and protests he’d imagined. Half an hour after being woken by clashes in the street, he telephoned the Petrograd garrison once more- taking care to use a ground-floor telephone. He wanted the streets cleared immediately. The commander remembered the fate which had befallen his predecessor after his failure to save Tsar Michael and moved with great haste. By eight AM, the five thousand troops in the capital were out in the streets. Their rules of engagement stipulated one warning and then acting as though in combat conditions. Unfortunately, these five thousand men were up against hundreds of thousands of workers. Clearing the streets proved unfeasible and so they settled for barricading key locations. Sandbags and machine-guns surrounded the Winter and Tauride Palaces, the Petrograd Cathedral (1), the mayor’s office, jails, and the Imperial treasury. St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow and the Kremlin became miniature fortresses.

As the day stretched on, Lvov got a handle on things. Aside from a handful of enraged workers attacking their factories, the protests were relatively peaceful. Police spies in the streets reported that the general trend seemed to be redress of grievances, not the overthrow of the regime. That was the only bit of good news. Every sector of the economy was affected to some degree. The coal miners and oil-field workers of Siberia had walked out, while the railroad strikes meant that even if they returned to work tomorrow, transporting their products would be impossible. Every city had emergency stockpiles that could last for a few days (the lack of operating trains and factories would help stretch this), but after a few weeks, the empire’s energy situation would become very grave. Lvov thanked God for the warm weather, which would prevent thousands freezing to death in unheated Russian winters! Food was slightly better- emergency stockpiles were under armed guard, while postwar shortages meant that rationing still existed. Provided rations were reduced and guarded even more stringently, shortages wouldn't escalate into starvation… at least not anytime soon. The Council of Ministers impressed upon Xenia and Lvov the need to get the country’s railroads running immediately. If soldiers could reach the grain fields of Ukraine or Siberian coal mines from the cities, they could avert economic extinction. A formal state of emergency was needed, the Prime Minister told his monarch, to grant her the powers to get events back under control. Xenia’s husband, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, concurred.

Post-revolutionary propaganda vilified Lvov for this. The Prime Minister, so they said, had tricked the empress into signing something she didn’t fully understand to increase his own power. This ignores two things. First, while Xenia lacked the political instincts of her brothers, she was by no means a stupid woman and would never have declared an emergency if she didn’t think it the right thing to do. Second, these were the same propagandists who portrayed Lvov as the mastermind who’d set up the September Revolution to fail and that he’d summoned the Black Hundreds to kill the peaceful labour protestors on 15 April. Witnessing excessive bloodshed in the capital over the past three years had converted Lvov to the religion of stability. The 1918 Constitution enabled the Tsar to declare a state of emergency, and this was unquestionably an emergency. Furthermore, Lvov was actually signing power away here (at least in theory). Under a state of emergency, the Tsarina could wield absolute power without reference to the Duma. All this should give the lie to revolutionaries who claim Lvov planned to make himself dictator.

When Lvov arose in the small hours of 2 May, something seemed out of place. It wasn’t until the cries of a drunk pierced the night-time silence that he realised the protests had temporarily ceased as everyone slept. If he was going to act, now was the time.

Donning a suit and tie, Lvov rang the drowsy general in charge of Petrograd. He wanted the city’s printing presses secure, and if he didn’t get a telephone call in half an hour informing him that it had been done, the general would find himself counting Siberian trees. Twenty-three minutes later, four armoured cars carried Lvov to the headquarters of the capital’s daily newspaper, where the bewildered printers stood in their nightclothes, guns trained on them. “What is this, Prime Minister?”, asked one of the more outspoken ones. “Do not worry, you are in no trouble”, Lvov smiled. “For you fine gentlemen, the general strike is over. Now listen carefully.” He retrieved a piece of paper and read off the proclamation of a state of emergency which Xenia had signed hours before. “See to it the world knows, gentlemen.” Three hours later, soldiers were pasting proclamations on anything which would hold them, and wires were carrying the text to garrisons across the empire. Georgi Lvov returned to the Winter Palace, where he relaxed with kasha and tea, convinced that the shock of reading proclamations of martial law under a rifle and bayonet would convince the strikers to return to work.

Today, 2 May 1919, I, Tsar Georgi Mikhailovich Romanov, Tsar of all the Russias by the Grace of God, in accordance with the principles of the Fundamental Law of 1832, the Constitution of 1906, and the Constitution of 1918, do hereby declare that a state of emergency exists across the Russian Empire. Over the past twenty-four hours, dangerous insurgents have taken to the streets in a dangerous repeat of the actions of September 1916. Their intents are not benign, not for the good of the Motherland, and do not stem from reverence for the Imperial throne or the people of Russia. Rather, they derive from the treasonous revolutionary Julius Martov, whose cabal of revolutionaries is influencing events. (2) They attempt to paralyse our economy and induce starvation in the cities through the seizure of our rail networks and disruption of agriculture. Treacherous agents in our streets have harmed untold innocent Russian patriots and done much damage to the fabric of our economy. As the father of all the Russian people, I would be most derelict in my duties if I failed to defend our nation and people against this menace. Therefore, the following measures shall enter into effect immediately, superseding all law unless specifically stated to the contrary, and shall remain until such time as the threat has passed.

  • All of the following industries are to immediately pass under the management of the Russian Army for the duration of this crisis
    • Coal mines
    • Oil production facilities, including oil refineries
    • All farms and estates larger than twenty acres
    • Railroads, including urban trolleys
    • Harbours
    • Urban factories concerned with the production of essential civilian goods
    • Printing presses
    • Telegraph and telephone wires
  • All labour unions and forms of worker’s organisations are temporarily suspended. Participation in such an organisation during the duration of this crisis shall constitute a substantial criminal offence.
  • All reservists in the Russian Army are hereby summoned to their duty stations.
  • No pamphlet, bill, or work of literature may be submitted without prior approval
  • Martial law is established in the following cities:
    • Moscow
    • Petrograd
    • Yekaterinburg
    • Kharkov
    • Smolensk
    • Kiev
    • Nizhny Novgorod
    • Odessa
    • Kazan
    • Chelyabinsk
    • Samara
    • Tiflis
    • Bukhara
    • Omsk
    • Rostov-on-Don
    • Ufa
    • Yerevan
    • Krasnoyarsk
    • Voronezh
    • Perm
    • Volgograd
  • The rights of the accused to a trial are temporarily suspended. All those imprisoned on grounds of participation in seditious activities will have an opportunity for a legitimate hearing once the crisis has passed.
  • Given the nature of this present crisis, I delegate the authority of decision-making on a momentary basis, to best handle events as they occur, to the office of the Prime Minister, or to another man whom he may appoint as his delegate."

He’d unknowingly just signed his regime’s death-warrant.

Martial law galvanised the strikers. Despite their myriad of grievances, they’d been forceful but peaceful on the first day. Very few on May Day dreamt of toppling the monarchy- the average striker just wanted an eight-hour day and a pay packet which would keep pace with inflation. Those participants with the intellect for politics limited their goals to removing Georgi Lvov and holding new elections. Thus, their treatment as traitors not only shocked them but radicalised them. If Lvov was going to treat them as the enemy, they would fight back! Protestors thus violently resisted preemptive strikes and greeted police with knives and guns. Armed gangs assaulted soldiers posting martial-law proclamations. Initial skirmishes escalated into full-scale street battles as both sides summoned reinforcements- and this was before the main protests resumed at dawn.

2 May 1919 made the preceding day look tame. Protestors occupied public squares and parks and, taking a cue from the Second Paris Commune, constructed barricades. Whereas these protests had been peaceful yesterday, they now crossed into violence. Years of pent-up rage at poverty and callousness, of long nights huddled around a fireplace with three other families as winter winds blew through thin walls, hoping to catch three hours of sleep before the alarm clock summoned you to the factory for eighteen more hours, ignoring the growling in your stomach and the cries of your sick children, burst forth. Rioters ransacked townhouses and subjected their occupants to fearsome- often fatal- beatings. China, jewelry, and delicacies became ‘reparations to the people’. Factory owners and foremen were abused by the mob; more than a few were lynched. Armed soldiers attempting to seize factories and rail stations in accordance with the declaration of emergency often found them occupied by the workers; both sides vied for control at a great cost in human life and property damage. Russia’s cities became chaotic places of shattered windows, broken glass, holes in walls, and wounded men in the streets crying out for God and for mother. The rioters left hospitals alone, but doctors and nurses were overwhelmed by the casualties. Those who’d been surgeons during the Great War later said this was the worst thing they’d seen since.

Into all this stepped the missing piece: the spark who would set off the gunpowder.

Vladimir Lenin had spent most of his career planning for this. He’d dodged four different monarchs, spent time in Siberia, and crisscrossed from one safe haven to the next. He’d experienced major defeat in 1905 and enjoyed a major success at the Duck Bay Congress. Lenin had made a valuable ally in Georges Sorel and quietly helped draw up the world’s first socialist economy. (3) He'd negated his rival Julius Martov; Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin were on his side.

And now, it was all coming to a head.

Lenin waited several days in the Finnish town of Lappeenranta as events unfolded. He knew that this risked losing the initiative but deemed it essential for security. If the general strike was snuffed out quickly, he’d be in Petrograd with few allies and plenty of Okhrana agents. The friendly Finnish regime kept him well-informed, (3) and after three days Lenin proceeded south. Escorted by several Russian-speaking Finnish Red Guards, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov set foot on his native soil for the first time in years on 4 May 1919.

The Petrograd strikers weren't well organised. As had happened all across the empire, individual unions had gotten wind of the planned strike and informed the workers- this was enabled by Lvov's tolerance of unions as a safety valve. Contrary to the image of a secretive organisation pulling strings from afar, the General Strike was quite decentralised. It was spread out over too vast an area and involved too many people to be centrally controlled. Some simply wanted better living conditions, others wanted to replace the monarchy with a socialist republic. Though the workers expressed their anger through rioting and streetfighting, the truth was they had no end goal. The average striker in May 1919 wanted nothing more than a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. His thoughts were fixated on his wife and children, not regime change. It was the powerful strike leaders who, since they were detached from the material concerns of the workers, were able to contemplate revolution, but they lacked a consensus. Many had attended the Toulon conference and considered themselves loyal Bolsheviks, but others had belonged to the now-banned Social Democrats, Socialist-Revolutionaries, or Trudoviks, which, although fierce opponents of reaction and monarchy, weren’t as revolutionary as the Bolsheviks, and they would have taken any attempt by Lenin to order them about amiss.

Lenin had to unite the different factions behind his programme to accomplish his revolution. To that end, he proceeded to the Nevsky Prospekt, his bodyguards in tow. Striking protestors already filled the street, slogans and banners bouncing off of one another. Soldiers defended key buildings but weren't opening fire- no one wanted a massacre. Lenin climbed on top of a broken-down car, shielded by his bodyguards, and addressed the crowd.

"People of Petrograd! We stand at a most critical hour for the fate of mankind. You, people of Petrograd, though it has not yet been made clear to you, are at the forefront of this process. That which is ancient, rotten, and ossified has reached the natural state- death and extinction. The capitalists not of just Petrograd, not even just of the entire Russian Empire, but of the entire world, have sat upon the workers and soldiers ever since time immemorial. For centuries your ancestors believed their honeyed words and the lies they told you that you might remain happy and content, scarcely conscious of your own oppression, placidly turning the gears which operate the machine oppressing you. Yet you, people of Petrograd, you have taken the first step forward into a world without such cruelty. It is through the collective mass action of the workers of Petrograd that the human race might take its first step into a brave new world. Your own efforts, and the efforts of all the proletariat of Russia, have brought about this General Strike, this refusal to be oppressed and put upon any further.

But the most stringent, fervent expression of the will of the people can not survive if not properly directed. Else it shall become confused, ill-focussed, lacking in purpose and subject to defeat by counter-revolutionary aspects. It is in this, people of Petrograd, that you are lacking. Fortunately, it is far easier to remedy a lack of focus and of ideological knowledge than of raw popular desire for change. Your innate loathing of the capitalist and noble who have lorded over you since time immemorial and feeling that revolution and equity must be achieved at your hands shall serve as the basis for revolution. Armed with this, it shall not be long before we all reap the harvest of socialism.

I now offer the following directives to the masses, that they might serve as future planks not just of the Revolution but of the worker's socialist state which must be its outcome:

1. The specific feature of the present situation in Russia is that it has yet to attain the first stage of the revolution- it remains, contrary to mistaken notions, a pre-revolutionary society by the unreasoning confidence of the masses in the government of tsars and of capitalists, the worst enemies of peace and socialism.. Russia must first experience a revolution to shatter the monarchist institutions and place power in the hands of a coalition, thence to the second stage, which must place power into the hands of the proletariat and the poor strata of the peasantry. This specific situation demands of us the ability to adapt ourselves to the specific requirements of Party work among unprecedented large masses of proletarians who have just awakened to political life.

2. No support must be given to the regime of Xenia Alexandrovna Romanova; the utter falsity of all its promises must be explained, particularly those relating to the liberalisation of political institutions within the monarchist framework. Exposure, and not the unpardonable, illusion- breeding “demand” that this government, a government of capitalists, should cease to be an imperialist government.

3. The fact must be recognized that in most of the unions directing this General Strike our Party is in a minority, and so far in a small minority, as against a bloc of all the petty-bourgeois opportunist elements, who have yielded to the influence of the bourgeoisie and convey its influence to the proletariat. It must be explained to the masses that the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies is the only possible form of revolutionary government, and that therefore our task is, as long as this government yields to the influence of the bourgeoisie, to present a patient, systematic and persistent explanation of the errors of their (the non-Bolshevik socialists) tactics, an explanation especially adapted to the practical needs of the masses. As long as we are in the minority we carry on the work of criticizing and explaining errors and at the same time advocate the necessity of transferring the entire power of state to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, so that the masses may by experience overcome their mistakes.

4. A republic of Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Laborers’ and Peasants’ Deputies throughout the country, from top to bottom. A parliamentary republic may become a necessity under the first stage of revolution, but only as an intermediary measure through which revolutionary government may advance and the masses may become politically enlightened. Abolition of the police, the Army and the bureaucracy. The salaries of all officials, who are to be elected and subject to recall at any time, must not exceed the average wage of a competent worker.

5. in the agrarian program the emphasis must be laid on the Soviets of Agricultural Laborers’ Deputies. Confiscation of all landed estates. Nationalization of all lands in the country, the disposal of the land to be put in charge of the local Soviets of Agricultural Laborers’ and Peasants’ Deputies. The organization of separate Soviets of Deputies of Poor Peasants. The creation of model farms on each of the large estates… under the control of the Agricultural Laborers’ Deputies and for the public account.

6. The immediate amalgamation of all banks in the country into a single national bank, control over which shall be exercised by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.

7. Our immediate task is not to “introduce” socialism, but only to bring social production and distribution of products at once under the control of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. The present General Strike represents a substantial step forward in that direction.

8. Party tasks:
(a) Immediate summoning of a Party congress.

(b) Alteration of the Party program, mainly on the question of imperialism, on the question of our attitude towards the state and our demand for a “commune state”, and amendment of our antiquated minimum program.
(c) A new name for the Party

9. A new International. Instead of ” Social Democrats”, whose official leaders throughout the world have betrayed socialism … we must call ourselves a Communist Party."
Lenin proclaiming the Nine-Point Programme, May 1919


Lenin's words met with cheers. "Up with the people!", they declared. "Down with repression! Lenin! Lenin! Lenin!" Their cries echoed up and down the Nevsky Prospekt and all across the capital. Suddenly it all made sense. The machine had oppressed their ancestors; now it fell to them to free themselves. If "Auntie Xenia" (as she was scornfully dubbed) couldn't serve the people, she had to go. Then something more astounding happened: the soldiers threw down their rifles. "Long live the people!", they declared. Their captain, a man named Nevmetzov, removed his cap and approached Lenin. "Sir, under the orders I have you ought to be arrested and shot. No one could deny that this is treasonous talk and that everyone here is guilty. Yet..." The captain blushed like a schoolgirl and grinned sheepishly. "I am a Russian too and my wife and children have all gone hungry. Fuck it." The captain turned to his soldiers. "Men- you did not hear a thing, do you understand!"

"He's right, you know", whispered another. Lenin grinned. "Valiant soldiers, for this I must thank you. You have saved my life, perhaps, and I promise to do everything within my power to aid you. Now, there is something I need from you." The captain leaned in closer.


The Okhrana should have arrested Grigory Zinoviev a long time ago. Born to Jewish parents in Ukraine, he'd sold his soul to Karl Marx at eighteen, and cast his lot with the Bolsheviks when the schism of 1903 came. Like his master, Zinoviev fled to Switzerland in summer 1914, but unlike Lenin, he returned to Russia as soon as possible. His Commentaries On The French Revolution, published in August 1918, became one of the classic communist texts. It offered a strictly Bolshevik interpretation of history, criticising Julius Martov as heavily as Paul Deschanel while emphasising (and sometimes inventing from thin air) similarities between Sorel and Lenin. That Zinoviev could concentrate on writing, not dodging the law, exemplifies the failure of Lvov's single-minded focus on Mensheviks, and had Zinoviev been a less firm Lenin man he might well have taken an unplanned writing sabbatical in Siberia. At the Toulon Conference, Zinoviev discussed the "revolutionary potential" of unions with Sorel and agreed to take charge of organising the Rodina's unions when the day came.

Now, after five years apart, Zinoviev had an appointment with the master.

Zinoviev had been on the move these past few days. Petrograd had many inauspicious safe-houses where a revolutionary could spend the night and get a hot meal. Many were merely the home of a sympathetic professor or activist, but it was this simplicity which made them so hard for the Okhrana to track. Lenin ordered Captain Zinoviev's men to wear red armbands and comb the city for Zinoviev. When a patrol found him a little after five PM, the revolutionary was initially suspicious of pleas that "I come from comrade Lenin", and one man had to go back and find Lenin while another stayed with Zinoviev. As soon as the two revolutionaries set eyes on one another, years of distance melted and the two shared a Russian bear hug. "Let us retire to my flat", Zinoviev said. "The Okhrana won't find us for one night."

As befitted a man living in fear of the government, Zinoviev lived with no roommates and minimal possessions. A dusty bookshelf housed worn copies of Tolstoy and Chekov, a Russian dictionary, a Talmud, and an encyclopedia; a faded map of the empire's 1914 borders hung above the bed. The only other furnishing were a cabinet, sink, and table."None of my works?", Lenin asked with a smirk.

"You may rest assured, Comrade Vladimir Ilyich, that my copy of Stand With the Majority has been reserved in the library of the University of Siberia. But come. We may be Bolshevik traitors but we are still good Russians. Here is the proof." He retrieved a bottle of vodka and two glasses. "To the confusion of Auntie Xenia." Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov knocked it back.


Grigory Zinoviev: Lenin's right-hand man and co-founder of the Petrograd Soviet

Several drinks and twelve hours later, the revolutionaries had a plan. Zinoviev would contact his fellow union leaders with Lenin's nine-point programme and have them announce it to the masses. This would provide a starting point from which to attack the Tsarist regime, a positive solution as opposed to wanton destruction. Similarly, Pravda (controlled by the Bolsheviks) would publish Lenin's speech with ample commentary. Calls would be made for worker's and soldier's councils to overthrow the Tsarina's regime, after which the Bolsheviks would assume power.

The publication of the Nine-Point Programme the next day caused a stir. Pravda wasn't circulated in the same way as legal newspapers, while the empire's communication lines were in military hands, so Lenin's words took time to cross the empire. In Petrograd, though, hastily written handbills and word of mouth ensured that everyone knew who Lenin was and what he stood for. 5 May 1919 was Lenin's day as he addressed crowd after crowd. Late that day, he and the leaders of the Petrograd unions congregated at a defunct theatre under the protection of the self-styled Petrograd Autonomous Company; two hundred men who'd mutinied and refused to obey "illegitimate orders" without "consent from the workers". The first meeting of the Petrograd Soviet (7) saw all the city's union leaders agree to the Nine-Point Programme. The revolutionaries now had something to unite the people around, and the strikers finally had an answer to their problems. Imagine the answer to all that suffering and confusion boiled down to nine simple ideas! "I would have summoned the garrison that moment", recalled the only Okhrana spy present (who'd turned up largely by accident- the large crowd intrigued him), "had it not been for the soldiers councils. I doubt a single soldier in Petrograd would've fired on Lenin." The spy retreated to the Tauride Palace convinced that Petrograd would be lost within days if not hours.

And where the capital went, the rest of Russia was never far behind...

All this confirmed the belief that the monarchy was in mortal danger. Xenia cancelled the emergency session of the Duma on the grounds that losing so many elites could destroy the regime at this crucial hour, but summoned Lvov and the Council of Ministers back to the Winter Palace for a late-night meeting. Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, who as the Tsarina’s husband could speak freely, said that if if the streets weren’t cleared in twenty-four hours there would be another September Revolution. That word brought an eerie quiet. Everyone knew what the word Sentabyr- сентябрь- meant: the monarchy looking death in the eye, two centuries of tradition and glory trampled beneath muddy boots and red banners. And this time, there was no successor waiting in the wings. General Lavr Kornilov, commander of the Petrograd garrison, turned pale and bit his cheek. “Your Excellency”, he stammered, as if revealing a fatal diagnosis, “it may well be worse than that. If we cannot get these Bolshevists under control, not only might there be another September Revolution, there might be another 15 April. We would be decapitated.” Everyone fought nausea, the rumble from outside making the silence in the room all the more terrible. “Barring further instructions from Your Excellency, I will direct my men to continue their resistance.”

Da.” Xenia touched her husband’s shoulder and spoke to him not as an empress to court favourite, but as a scared wife to her helpless husband. “Alexander, we should flee. If we cannot hold the city, you and I will both die and that would be the…” The words hung in the air. The end of the monarchy. (8) Who would have imagined it in 1914? “General Kornilov, I entrust the defence of the capital to you. Prime Minister Lvov… I say this as a recommendation, a suggestion, not an order. Do you understand?” Lvov nodded his big head, his mane turned silver by stress. “I feel it would be best if you remained in the capital. You are a liberal man by any account and better versed in politics than I.” Xenia picked up a pen and paper. “Speaking as your empress, I, Tsarina Xenia, delegate full power to strive for a negotiated settlement to end the chaos on the following broad terms: an end to all violence and the General Strike, no modification of our current institutions, and the suspension of martial law within ten days of peace.” She handed Lvov a paper with that written on it. “Now, my husband and I must decamp. I do not consider Tsarskoe Selo safe.”

“After all”, said her husband, “it would be a bad omen. Terrible things have happened to Romanovs fleeing Petrograd for Tsarskoe Selo! It could be our Varennes!”

It would have been funny if it were a joke.

An entire battalion of Imperial Guards, hitherto kept in reserve, escorted Xenia, Grand Duke Alexander, and their twelve-year-old son Vasilly (the other sons were in the military) to Pskov. The town was near enough to the capital for the imperial party to reach it or return to Petrograd easily, while far enough away that events in the capital wouldn’t pose a mortal danger. Besides, if worse came to worst, the imperial party could slip across the border with the United Baltic Duchy. Decamping at midnight with minimal luggage, the imperial party arrived at a requisitioned country estate shortly after two AM. Guards were posted all along the perimeter and the butler was subservient to a seasoned Okhrana agent. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that despite a hearty meal and the telephone being taken off the hook, no one slept a wink.

We shall never know what Xenia’s thoughts were that night. In three days, the regime which her brother had founded at the cost of his life and which she genuinely believed to be Russia’s only salvation had fallen. The Russian Army might’ve been tin soldiers for all the good they’d done so far; her lack of confidence in the men on the perimeter is understandable. The 165 miles between her and the capital seemed insignificant. Surely, it was only a matter of time before the revolutionaries arrived, before they butchered the guards and lined her family against a wall? And that was just her. Could the monarchy survive another violent turnover of power? Would the revolutionaries be able to exploit her death to abolish the throne? Such questions were more than enough to keep the last Romanov monarch awake as the second of May became the third.

Unbeknownst to Xenia, though the Romanov monarchy had but days to live, it would not be the red-flag-waving mob who destroyed it. Rather, it was a man whom the empress trusted- and who fiercely opposed communism- who destroyed two centuries of Russian tradition…


  1. The Church of the Saviour on Blood
  2. Note the key error here! Martov has nothing to do with this-- but if it’s leftist, it must be Martovist in TTL’s eyes!
  3. Requisition revolutionairre was heavily based off of OTL's New Economic Policy
  4. One wonders where this came from ;) (Here,
  5. Second leader of the Petrograd Soviet in OTL
  6. Taken from the OTL April Theses, found on Wikipedia, and modified.
  7. A different beast from OTL's but still dangerous
  8. Actually, it wouldn't, but that’s neither here nor there in the Petrograd bunker.
Oh, that quote by Lvov at the top is bitterly funny to me. It's chaos and I'm not entirely sure how it's all going to go except for that it's going to be very bad. It'd be interesting to see how Lenin will manage what seems to be the imminent collapse of the Russian monarchy and the remaining forces that governed it. Particularly as he has a good deal less time to actually get his government up and running and established compared to OTL, if we assume his death in reality is likelier than not to occur in this one as well.
Oh, that quote by Lvov at the top is bitterly funny to me. It's chaos and I'm not entirely sure how it's all going to go except for that it's going to be very bad. It'd be interesting to see how Lenin will manage what seems to be the imminent collapse of the Russian monarchy and the remaining forces that governed it. Particularly as he has a good deal less time to actually get his government up and running and established compared to OTL, if we assume his death in reality is likelier than not to occur in this one as well.
Yes, that was entierly what I was going for. Lvov has really let the situation get out of his control and he'll have to pay the price for that.
With regards to Lenin, he's still in a precarious position. He doesn't really have full control over events- the Nine-Point Programme hasn't spread outside Petrograd yet- and there's ample room for a rival to challenge him.
Simply put, how does Lenin somehow manage to make the reader root for him, despite knowing better?
Glad you liked it! And I don't know how he does it either... ;)
I mean I wasn’t rooting for Lenin, I just regard the entire thing with a horrid sense of tragedy. Like watching a train go straight off the rails and into hell...Now the only hope for Russia is that the Soviets are less horrid than OTL.