There had been little political life in the fleet before February; the fate of the Marseillaise during the first Helsingfors demonstrations was symbolic — ‘the sailor masses tried to sing, but almost no one knew the words’. Things quickly changed. Within a few months an admiral could complain that ‘politics were everywhere: nearly every day there were meetings of ships’ delegates, eternal conversations by semaphore and signal lamp, frequent meetings on shore’.1 And this was among the relatively calm ships in the Gulf of Riga; at the main bases new democratic institutions held power, and thousands of ratings poured into the radical parties. The new interest in politics affected the democratisation of the fleet and led to the appearance of some Baltic sailors in the all-Russian political arena, but these two themes will be pursued in Chapters 3 and 4. The object here is to see how politicisation began and developed.
KeywordsParty Worker Russian Revolution Soviet Power Signal Lamp Finnish Regional
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