Blog: Through Testimony

100th Anniversary of the February Revolution

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 12:00pm -- deanna.pitre

Contributor: Svetlana Ushakova

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 12:00pm

The February Revolution began 100 years ago in Petrograd, then the capital of the Russian Empire, modern day St. Petersburg. Bread riots and protests developed into a mass demonstration and industrial strike on March 8, 1917. February 23 in the Julian calendar, which is considered the first day of the Revolution. After about a week of demonstrations and clashes between protesters and police and soldiers of the Petrograd army garrison, who eventually joined to the protesters, the Tsar Nicholas II had abdicated his throne and the Provisional Government was announced.

A demonstration of workers from the Putilov plant in Petrograd (modern day St. Petersburg) around March 7, 1917 courtesy of Wikicommons.

Even though the immediate cause of the Revolution was economic and social consequences of Russian participation in World War I, the conflict was deeply rooted in unwillingness and inability of Nicholas and his government to reform the Russian society. The February Revolution brought about many rights and freedoms of which Russian citizens had hitherto deprived. On April 2, 1917, the Pale of Settlement, a long-term restriction on Jewish residence in the Russian Empire, was abolished.

In the collective memory, the February Revolution has faded or been mixed with the October Revolution, which happened eight months later and defined the trajectory of the Russian history for the next 70 years. However, the memory of the February Revolution is preserved in several eyewitness testimonies to the Holocaust in the Visual History Archive. Explore the following testimonies where interviewees remember the February Revolution.

February Revolution

February Revolution

On March 8, 1917 (February 23 in the Julian calendar), in Petrograd, then the capital of the Russian Empire (today St. Petersburg), the February Revolution began. It brought about many rights and freedoms of which Russian citizens had hitherto deprived. On April 2, 1917, the Pale of Settlement, a long-term restriction on Jewish residence in the Russian Empire, was abolished.

Boris Markhovskii remembers the February Revolution

Language: Russian

English translation:

"But the Revolution changed everything. Impoverished Jews, including my father, threw themselves into the Revolution. Why did they throw themselves into the Revolution? Jews were deprived of any rights. There was the Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire: a Jew could not stay at Petersburg or Moscow for more than 24 hours without a special permit. Jews could not also live in big cities. In [190]5, they began to expel Jews from villages as well. In the classic series Tevye the Dairyman [by Sholem Aleichem], we see how they expelled Jews from there. So, - why I’m talking about it, - Jews threw themselves into the Revolution. They did not also have a right for education. Only some of them, those who were rich, merchants of the first guild, could get an education, but most Jews did not have any rights and privileges. That’s why Jews threw themselves into the Revolution, including my father. When the Revolution began, he was the first one who climbed up and tore off a portrait of Czar Nicolas from a distillery [wall]."

 

Boris Markhovskii was born in 1935 in Bershad’, then Soviet Union (today Ukraine). In 1941, he was incarcerated in Bershad’ ghetto and was liberated in 1944. Boris discusses the reasons why impoverished Jews supported the Revolution and his father’s participation in the February Revolution. Particularly, he talks about discrimination against Jewish and the Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire.

  • Boris Markhovskii remembers the February Revolution

    Language: Russian

    English translation:

    "But the Revolution changed everything. Impoverished Jews, including my father, threw themselves into the Revolution. Why did they throw themselves into the Revolution? Jews were deprived of any rights. There was the Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire: a Jew could not stay at Petersburg or Moscow for more than 24 hours without a special permit. Jews could not also live in big cities. In [190]5, they began to expel Jews from villages as well. In the classic series Tevye the Dairyman [by Sholem Aleichem], we see how they expelled Jews from there. So, - why I’m talking about it, - Jews threw themselves into the Revolution. They did not also have a right for education. Only some of them, those who were rich, merchants of the first guild, could get an education, but most Jews did not have any rights and privileges. That’s why Jews threw themselves into the Revolution, including my father. When the Revolution began, he was the first one who climbed up and tore off a portrait of Czar Nicolas from a distillery [wall]."

     

    Boris Markhovskii was born in 1935 in Bershad’, then Soviet Union (today Ukraine). In 1941, he was incarcerated in Bershad’ ghetto and was liberated in 1944. Boris discusses the reasons why impoverished Jews supported the Revolution and his father’s participation in the February Revolution. Particularly, he talks about discrimination against Jewish and the Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire.

  • Mariia Ivanovna Egorycheva-Glagoleva on the February Revolution

    Language: Russian

    English Translation of testimony clip:

    “The February Revolution, - that’s how I perceived it being a girl, - was a celebration. It was a fraternization! It was a jubilation! The bonds of an old order were broken: [before] you were not allowed to do this and that. If you were a nobleman, you were allowed to do everything, but if you were a burgess, you were deprived of everything. There were a lot of ties and bonds. But [the Revolution], it was such a liberation and joy! [People] were fraternizing!”

    Mariia Ivanovna Egorycheva-Glagoleva was born in 1903 in Kiev, then Russian Empire (today Kyiv, Ukraine). In 1941, when Nazis occupied Kiev, Mariia with her mother, sisters, and uncle hid her Jewish sister-in-law and niece and Jewish friends and helped them to get false papers. In 1992, Yad Vashem recognized Mariia and other members of her family as Righteous Among the Nations. In February 1917, she was 13 years old. She remembers her feelings about the Revolution and compares them to the October Revolution.

  • Solly Ganor on the February Revolution

    Language: English

    Solly Ganor (Henkind) was born in 1927 in Silute, Lithuania. In 1941, Solly with his family was incarcerated in Kaunas ghetto. In 1944, he was deported to Stutthof concentration camp and then to Kaufering Lager X and Dachau. Solly was liberated in 1945. His father, Heim Henkind, born in 1891 in Minsk, then Russian Empire (today Belarus), was a member of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (Men’sheviks), that was emerged after the division of the Party in two groups, Men’sheviks and Bol’sheviks. Solly Ganor tells about his father’s revolutionary activities in 1905 – 1917 and his participation in the Provisional government under the leadership of the Minister-Chairman A. Kerenskii.

Posts are contributed by individual authors. The opinions are solely the authors’ and are not necessarily a reflection of the views of USC Shoah Foundation.

About Svetlana Ushakova

Svetlana Ushakova currently works in the collections department at USC Shoah Foundation as a content specialist. She received her doctoral degree in Russian history at the Novosibirsk State University, Russia. She is the author and co-author of several publications on the history of Soviet ideological campaigns, social mobilization, and adaptation methods used by peasant families to survive Soviet deportation and exile.

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