Builders and Deserters: Students, State, and Community in Leningrad, 1917-1941

By Peter Konecny | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Revolution and
Civil War

S.V. Soldatenkov, an active supporter of the Bolsheviks at Petrograd University during the civil war, offered a retrospective summary of the struggle that ensued between supporters and opponents of the new regime. He described oppositionists as over-the-hill romantics, bent on sabotaging the socialist revolution.

In my naive impression arising from the pre-revolutionary years, a student was a synonym for a revolutionary. This is because in old times newspapers often wrote about students as victims of police shootings and participants in revolutionary acts against the tsarist ministers and other servants of the monarchist regime. They frequently wrote about the death penalty being applied to student revolutionaries. So what was the studenchestvo of our university like at the beginning of the I920s?

Among them were political philistines both in spirit and in interest. The grandiose revolutionary events, the rupture of old ways of life — all this had gone by. The leaders of these masses were older students, frequently of estimable age: representatives of the Kadet Party — Ianovskii, Aizenshtadt, Maizel', Sokolov; the Socialist Revolutionaries — Zhaba; the Mensheviks — Abramovich and others. The whole atmosphere of social life at the university had an oppositionist character towards any measures of Soviet power. I

Bolshevik supporters referred to their opponents as remnants of the "old order," even though the latter had been struggling to promote change. For many students, this provided a severe lesson in civil war politics: former political activists now became enemies of a regime determined to use force and terror to construct its new order.

During the civil war, students witnessed incredible events. In March 1917, 2 as a series of bread riots and strikes paralysed Petrograd, mass desertions in the army and the collapsing front lines spelled disaster for

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