Cruiser Aurora signals start of Russian Revolution in October 1917

On the 22nd. of May 1892, the cruiser Aurora had her keel laid at the New Admiralty shipyard in St Petersburg. Launched on the 11th. of May 1900, she joined the Imperial Russian Navy in July of 1903.

The Russian Cruiser Aurora secured in the Neva River at St Petersburg.
It was from this ship by firing a shot into the Winter Palace
that the start of the October 1917 revolution was signalled.

During the Russo-Japanese War this ship was included in the Pacific Ocean Squadron having sailed to the Far East in October 1904.

The route taken by Aurora to the Far East, and her subsequent return home
The route taken by Aurora to the Far East, and her subsequent return home
Aurora fired her first angry shot at the Battle of Tsushima on the 27th. May 1905, and was one of the few Russian ships to survive this battle, returning to the Baltic and being used to train the Cadets from the Naval College.

Over the years 1906-1912 Aurora sailed the world, and in November 1911 was in Bangkok for the crowning of the King of Siam.

In WW1 she took part in actions around the Baltic, and went into dock at Petrograd** in 1916 for repairs.

** The name of St Petersburg has seen a number of changes over the years, in the interest of clarity I will numerate them now. When WW1 broke out in August 1914, the original name of St Petersburg named after Peter the Great, was considered to sound too Germanic, and being at war against Germany, the name of the city was changed to Petrograd. After the Revolution of October 1917 with Lenin in charge, in 1924 another name change was instituted, and it was called Leningrad. This name lasted until 1991, when once more we had a change, and the city reverted to its original name of St Petersburg, which is still in usage in 2003.

Alexander Kerensky the leader of the Provisional Government of Russia in July 1917
Alexander Kerensky the leader of the Provisional Government of Russia in July 1917
Siege of Leningrad.
During the incredible 900 day seige of Leningrad, when some 641,000 people of the city died, Aurora moored at the mouth of the Gulf of Finland hammered the Nazi invaders around Leningrad with her main armament, but the old cruiser was eventually sent to the bottom. In 1957 she was raised and moved to her present location on the Neva River alongside a wharf close to the Hermitage. In 1987 a full restoration was carried out, and Aurora now houses the Museum of the

Armed Uprising of October 1917.
The Russian Revolution, October 1917.
The Tsar Nicholas 11 had abdicated on the 13th. of March in 1917, to be replaced by a Provisional Government, and on the 8th. of July, Alexander Kerensky who had been the Minister of War became the leader of the Provisional Government.

The Eastern Front.
In WW1, the Eastern Front was the stage where Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany were all performing, but in July 1917, it was here that the Russians collapsed, with huge numbers of their troops deserting, it has been suggested that up to 2 million had unofficially left the Army.

Lenin who took over after the October 1917 Revolution in Russia
Lenin who took over after the October 1917 Revolution in Russia
The Bolesheviks.
Lenin who had been in exile in Austria and had moved into Switzerland, had just returned to Russia. He had  arrived in a special sealed train provided for him by the German Foreign Ministry, who hoped he would be instrumental in bringing the war to an end, thereby releasing all the German troops who had been propping up the Eastern Front for redeployment to the now threatened Western Front.

Lenin lead the Boleshevik group who were in a position with numbers and the leadership ability to get rid of the Provisional Government to bring both a Revolution and its new order to Leningrad and to wider Russia.

Kerensky acts.
On the 19th. of July 1917, Kerensky ordered Lenin and his Bolshevik leaders to be arrested, but Lenin got wind of his impending arrest, and escaped to Finland. The Bolshevik headquarters in the Kshesinsky Palace was occupied by government troops, now the Bolsheviks raised 25,000 troops to defend themselves in Petrograd, and Lenin returned from Finland but remained in hiding.

Tthe Bolsheviks now set up their headquarters in the Smoleny Institute, and Kerensky, in an endeavour to bolster his position ordered the arrest of all the Military Revolutionary Committee on the 22nd. of October, he closed down the Bolshevik newspapers, and cut off all phones to the Smoleny Institute, but for him, time was quickly ebbing away.

The Ensign of the Imperial Russian Navy
The Ensign of the Imperial Russian Navy
Trotsky urges the overthrow of the Provisional Government.
Trotesky now urged the Bolsheviks to act, and throw out the Provisional Government, and he gained the agreement of Lenin. Orders went out to occupy the Railway stations, the important Telephone Exchange, and the State Bank, the Bolsheviks were on the move to taking control.

The Red Guards who were made up of armed factory workers, surrounded the Winter Palace although it was defended by Cossacks, at 2100 ( 9 PM ) on the 25th. of October 1917, Aurora fired a shot into the Winter Palace, which was the signal to the Red Guards to attack. The Revolution that was to change both Russia and the world was under way.

The Red Guards entered the Palace, arrested all the Cabinet Ministers, but Kerensky had slipped away. The next day power was handed over to the Soviet Council of Peoples Commissars, with Lenin as Chairman, Trotsky in charge of Foreign affairs, and Stalin putting his feet on the ladder leading to eventual control of the USSR, his first post that of Nationalities.

Lenin soon took the new Socalist Government out of the war with Germany, much to the chagrin of the Allies, and signed a peace treaty with Germany.

The ship's bell on board the Russian cruiser Aurora
The ship's bell on board the Russian cruiser Aurora
I have twice visited this Venice of the North, the wonderful city of St Petersburg. I have stood on the wharf alongside this ship now over 100 years old, and marvelled at her condition today. It was spawned in Tsarist times, it survived the Battle of Tsushima against Japan, WW1, until it signalled the start of the Revolution by firing the first shot in October 1917.

Aurora assisted in the seige of Leningrad in WW2, was sunk, recovered, and rebuilt. Sitting at its berth alongside the famous Hermitage, this ship has witnessed the demise of the old USSR, and the emergence of the present amalgam of individual States formed from the old Soviet Union. What does the future hold for a ship that has spanned all the differing regimes that have held sway in this part of the world?

I suggest no one can answer that question.


Palace Square St Petersburg

Palace Square St Petersburg



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