Storms Before the Storm: 1912–1914

  • Robert Service


Residence in Switzerland and France was endured stoically by Russian émigrés. They had left their motherland involuntarily; and most of them regarded Geneva, Berne and Zurich as the least hateful of alternative bases. At first glance it is mystifying that they did not gravitate towards citadels of Europe’s contemporary avant-garde, such as Vienna. Why did they, in the main, avoid lengthy stays in centres of economic power such as London or Berlin? The main reason was that Switzerland’s constitution provided an unusual degree of civic tolerance. Russian revolutionaries attracted little attention from the authorities. The snowy winters were bitter-sweetly reminiscent of home. The mountains were strange, certainly, to inhabitants of the Russian empire unless they happened to come from the Caucasus. Yet all the émigrés, whatever their geographical origins, adored the Alps. Hill-walking was as popular among them as among Swiss townsfolk — in those days it was only a few aristocratic Britons who were mountaineering enthusiasts. Swiss orderliness could grate upon the sensibilities of Russians (although this was never Lenin’s reaction!), but in general earned its due esteem. The efficiency of libraries and postal services was a godsend to these bibliophile rebels. Russian socialists as Second International members also found the country well situated for communications with Central, Western and Southern Europe.


Trade Union Internal Affair Political Life Central Committee Police Agent 
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Copyright information

© Robert Service 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Service
    • 1
  1. 1.LondonUK

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