On April 9, 1917, at 3:10 p.m., 32 Russian emigrants led by Lenin, who had previously been in Zurich, Switzerland, but were trying to reach Russia, began a journey through Germany in a “sealed wagon”. The February Revolution had already happened. Before all this, there were secret negotiations with the German government, which turned out to be vitally interested in the revolutionaries’ unsuccessful attempts to reach their homeland in some other way, and the pacifist-minded Bolsheviks finally smashing the enemy army and leading the Russian Empire. It came out of the First World War. Thus, the interests of the Bolsheviks and the Germans coincided for a while and they helped each other, but then Lenin and his comrades could not avoid accusations of working for Kaiser Germany and even getting money from him for the proletarian revolution.
The future British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, later wrote with serious sarcasm about Lenin’s trip: “It is necessary to pay close attention to the already despicable initiative of the German military leadership. His use of the most fearsome weapon against Russia is admirable. He carried Lenin like a plague bacillus from Switzerland to Russia in a sealed carriage. However, contrary to established stereotypes, the initiative for such a trip came not only from Germany, but also from revolutionary circles, and the emigrants acted quite frankly and openly, organized the movement and the demand to provide a “sealed wagon” and thus a complete extraterrestrial, to make it belong to Lenin, who primarily cares about his future reputation.
After the February Revolution in Russia, the Provisional Government that came to power solemnly declared that all former political emigrants, including the leader of the Bolshevik Party, Lenin, now had the right to return to their homeland. Special funds were allocated even for the return of the old opposition to Russia, but, of course, not all revolutionaries “at home” were equally welcome. The countries allied to the Provisional Government, which managed to coin the slogan “War to a victorious end,” were also categorically opposed to the prevalence of pacifist sentiments in Russian society, and therefore gladly facilitated the transfer of political emigrants who supported it. They are shouting slogans against Russia, putting all kinds of obstacles in front of those who oppose the war. And only the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin, even at the beginning of the war, in 1914, “Let’s turn the imperialist war into a civil war!” It was the most ardent “pacifists” who put forward the slogan. – of course, not to defeat Russia, but to inflate the world revolutionary movement, which at that time was supposed to encompass all the warring countries, including Germany – in essence it happened then.
Thus, both the Provisional Government and the countries fighting on the side of the Entente did not rush to assist the revolutionaries in their return to their homeland, without directly forbidding them to return to their homeland, and even put obstacles on this path up to arrests. the number of returnees from the “black list of the most dangerous pacifists”.
Supporters of the continuation of the war could go to Russia from England by sea – through Arkhangelsk, Murmansk or Scandinavia, and cruise ships could be pursued under the protection of British warships due to the danger of attack by German submarines. But this road was ordered to the Bolsheviks. On March 18, immediately after the Provisional Government’s pardon “for political and religious affairs”, Lenin instructed the wife of Bolshevik Georgy Safarov, Valentina Mortochkina, to ask the British Embassy about the possibility of moving to Russia via Great Britain. received a negative response. Later, this married couple followed Lenin to the “sealed wagon” and in 1938 and 1942 both were shot by Stalin.
On March 19, the Menshevik leader Julius Martov proposed a transit plan from Germany in exchange for German internees at a meeting in Bern. At first, Lenin refused this plan, but in the end it was Lenin who was the first to go on such a journey, ahead of Martov, who then followed the Bolsheviks through Germany in the same car.
The real inspiration for the trip turned out to be Alexander Parvus (alias Israel Gelfand), a successful businessman with a very dubious reputation as a social democrat, who also worked for German intelligence. He plays “Under” by Maxim Gorky and now, through the German ambassador in Copenhagen, Ulrich von Brockdorf-Rantzau, has proposed to the German government a plan to plunge Russia into chaos by supporting the most radical elements and subsidizing Russia. revolutionary movement and anti-war propaganda. After consultations with Parvus, Brockdorff-Rantzau wrote on April 2, 1917: “We must contribute to deepening the divide between the moderates and the extremist party. It is in our interest for the latter to take over, because in this case dramatic changes will become inevitable and take forms that will shake the very existence of the Russian Empire … In all probability, in about three months, we can count. on the fact that disintegration will come to a stage where we can dismember Russia by military force.”
Having received the instructions, Parvus in vain tried to meet with Lenin – he avoided such conciliatory contacts, explaining in public that “the cause of the revolution should not be stained with dirty hands”, but still left his employee Karl Radek to him. Negotiations on German proposals (in Stalin’s time Radek was arrested and died in the Verkhneuralsk political isolation in 1939).
Finally, the conditions for the transport of immigrants were communicated by Lenin, through Fritz Platten, secretary of the Swiss Social Democratic Party, and Gisbert von, Germany’s ambassador to Switzerland, who undertook to accompany the Bolsheviks on their trips to Germany. Romberg. These conditions were nine, and in particular made it possible to officially exclude the communication of Russian emigrants with the German authorities and the receipt of money from them: “The right to extraterritoriality is recognized for transport. Passport or passenger checks should not be done either when entering or leaving Germany. It was necessary to “provide rail tickets at regular fare” to passengers, which they would buy with their own money, but of course getting a train to pass and guard with a single car resulted in a round sum. “Tickets at regular fare prices” did not make up for it.
The fact of the trip was not secret, moreover, “passengers … regardless of their views and attitudes on the question of war or peace” were invited from the political emigrant environment, but, of course, those who went were mostly Bolsheviks. Those who tried to get into the car with Lenin and without agreement did not take it with them.
On the day of departure, the bereaved, who categorically did not approve of such a trip, also gathered at the Zurich train station, came to swear, but those who went stifled the curses by singing the Internationale in different languages. At the German border station Gottmadingen, Lenin and his comrades boarded a “sealed car”, accompanied by two officers of the German General Staff, and never left the train until they passed the next border.
This car had five compartments of the second and third class, a separate compartment was given to Lenin and Nadezhda Krupskaya, but on the trip, Lenin took not only his legal wife, but also his “closest confidant” – Inessa Armand, and it remains unclear where he traveled – this account has different proofs. Zinovievs and Kamenev also joined the tour, but Lunacharsky (who was not yet a Bolshevik at the time) preferred to stay and go later with Martov.
Between the German and “Russian” parts, at Lenin’s suggestion, a chalk white line was drawn, but those in the car were still not completely isolated from the outside world. “Three of our wagon doors were sealed, the fourth, the rear wagon door, opened freely as the officers and me were given the right to leave the wagon. The compartment closest to this empty door was given to the two officers accompanying us. A chalked line on the floor of the aisle – no neutral zone – on one side. He separated the territory occupied by the Germans, on the other hand, from the Russian territory … Contact with the German people. Strict rules were applied in the car itself. The travelers strictly adhered to the agreement,” wrote Fritz Platten in his memoirs.
Immigrants took food with them, but Swiss customs officers confiscated it, so at Platten train stations they had to buy food for passengers on the train, fresh newspaper and milk for children. However, the train moved quite quickly, and contacts between Russian immigrants and local residents were indeed excluded.
Special collisions with toilets arose. In the “Russian half” there was only one toilet, from which queues constantly appeared: since Ilyich categorically forbade smoking in the car, smokers had to use the only toilet for this. In the end, Lenin even divided everyone into two categories to streamline this process of managing these natural needs.
The car went at the highest possible speed to the station Sassnitz, located in the German resort town of the same name on the island of Rügen, after which, returning to Russia, they got on the Queen Victoria ferry and crossed to Sweden, where it ended. In Finland, it still belonged to Russia at that time. On April 16, 1917, Lenin and his friends arrived at the Finland Station in Petrograd. It was there that Lenin gave his famous speech and wrote his equally famous April Theses along the way. The arrest that some refugees feared never materialized. Moreover, the Provisional Government did not even accuse those who came at the time of working for German intelligence – such accusations appeared later, starting in July 1917, when relations between the Bolsheviks and the government completely deteriorated, and indeed a lawsuit was filed against their leader. on espionage charges.
The trips of Russian political emigrants on the territory of warring Germany continued into the future, and in total about three hundred politicians and their family members arrived in such “sealed cars”, among them Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries. , anarcho-communists and representatives of other political forces, not all of them rejected the slogan “War to a victorious end”, but could at least be considered “radicals dangerous for Russia.”