Excerpt from Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Caught in the Revolution

Petrograd, Russia, 1917 - A World on the Edge

by Helen Rappaport

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport X
Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport
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    Feb 2017, 448 pages

    Apr 2018, 544 pages


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Even the foreigners were suffering, albeit relatively speaking. 'We are so short of everything here now, that ham or bacon is more acceptable than a bouquet of orchids,' complained J. Butler Wright at the US embassy, adding that 'whisky is in the same category'. He was overjoyed when a courier arrived from Washington with twenty-seven pouches of mail, as well as 'bacon, Listerine, whiskey, dioxygen, marmalade, papers, etc etc'. Trying to keep warm in his hotel room, photographer Donald Thompson could still get coffee, 'but it's coffee only in name and the bread is not bread at all'. He was, he admitted, 'beginning to feel the pangs of hunger – even in the Astoria Hotel'.

Hunger was made worse by the continuing sub-zero temperatures affecting the supply of fuel to the city by rail. Rowing boats on the Neva were chopped up for firewood, and even more desperate measures were resorted to: 'at dead of night' people slunk into the nearest cemetery 'to fill whole sacks with the wooden crosses from the graves of poor folk' and take them home for their fires.

Once more there was a wave of strikes. This time, the tsarist police were taking no chances. On Minister of the Interior Protopopov's orders, machine guns were being secretly mounted on the roofs of all the city's major buildings, particularly around the main thoroughfare, the Nevsky. J. Butler Wright noted the darkening mood on 9 February:

The Cossacks are again patrolling the city on account of threatened strikes – for the women are beginning to rebel at standing in bread lines from 5.00 a.m. for shops that open at 10:00 a.m., and that in weather twenty-five degrees below zero.

He had it on reliable information that 'the day set for the opening of the Duma will be the day for a socialist outbreak'. In anticipation of this, 14,000 Cossacks had been brought in to Petrograd to bolster army reserves. They were patrolling the streets of Petrograd on 14 February when the Duma reopened after its Christmas recess, but the predicted trouble never came. Proceedings at a densely crowded Tauride Palace were carried off in an atmosphere of despondency rather than confrontation. Thinking the crisis over for now and that it was safe to 'take a short holiday', an exhausted Sir George Buchanan and his wife set off for a much-needed ten-day rest at the dacha of a friend in the British colony located on the little island of Varpasaari in Finland.

Excerpted from Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport. Copyright © 2017 by Helen Rappaport. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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