The Reluctant Revolutionaries
It was a sudden, unpremeditated upsurge of the Petrograd labour movement, the product of intolerable local economic and social pressures, which precipitated the supreme crisis. The introduction of flour and bread rationing in Moscow on 20 February led to rumours of deficiencies, then panic shortages and finally food riots in Petrograd. On 22 February the management of the Putilov works, the largest employer in Petrograd, ordered a lock-out of their protesting 40,000 staff. The next day, workers from some fifty industrial plants came out in sympathy with the Putilovtsy, using the pretext of International Women’s Day to throng the city centre and organise a general strike. Whether the government’s jittery nerves made it over-react to the situation or the disturbances were taken by Protopopov as a convenient excuse for implementing a scheme of provocation and suppression, there was no doubt of the gravity with which latest developments were viewed. At 2 p.m. on the twenty-third, the administration of Petrograd was transferred from the city police chief A.P. Balk to General Khabalov. The menace implicit in this transfer seemed unequivocal when Khabalov ordered the closure of shops and offices, a night curfew, the halting of the city transport services and the introduction of cavalry units to reinforce the police.
KeywordsModerate Leader Conspiracy Theory Supreme Authority Russian Moderate Constituent Assembly
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