Russia

Tour of 1917 St. Petersburg

When we think of the Russian Revolution, most people automatically think of the events of 1917, when the Bolsheviks stormed the Tsar’s palace and seized control of the nation.

Those who have the ability to visit St. Petersburg today on tours to Russia can see the past come alive with the relics and museums that display the turbulent transition into the former Soviet Union.

This Russia tour of St. Petersburg allows visitors and natives alike who are welcome to Russia to experience one of the greatest events in all of world history.

We begin in the Palace Square, where the Tsars met their overthrow at the hand of the revolutionaries.

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Palace Square

History remembers the Russian Revolution as violent and destructive, but the first few months of the Revolution proved relatively calm. The revolution was born out of Russia’s part in World War One, where the Tsar thrust millions of soldiers to fight on the front lines against Germany with little preparation: legend holds that the army issued soldiers with a gun that had only a single bullet. Prior revolutions in the early years of the 20th century had little effect.

The destruction of WWI and the collapse of the Russian economy made many citizens disruptive, however. In March of 1917 Tsar Nicholas II visited the Palace in an attempt to sway public opinion; instead a crowd surrounded him and demand he give up the rule of the nation.

The Palace that had been the home of the Tsars for two centuries became the center of a temporary democratic government called the Duma. Initially, the Duma did not want a socialist state, but rather a republic with constitutional representation. This proved too limited, however, for their main adversary: the Bolsheviks, who would storm the Winter Palace in October of 1917 in order to execute the Tsar.

The Palace’s wine cellars, furthermore, were looted for a full month, known as the “longest hangover in history”. Continuing on to the Finlandsky railway station, this tour will examine the Bolsheviks next.

Finlandsky Railway Station

In 1917, the German government realized that they needed to eliminate Russia from WWI to have any chance of success. They chose to do so by supporting a Russian revolutionary in exile: Vladimir Ilyich Ulanov, today remembered as V.I. Lenin, who the Germans smuggled into Russia through this train.

The station displays the locomotive, a century old, that bore the revolutionary back into his home country: along the way into the country, Lenin threw revolutionary leaflets to soldiers on the front that recommended that they fire upon their bourgeoisie officers. The name of the station derives from Finns who owned the station; after the revolution began, they fled the country.

As such, the station represents a symbol of both the dreams and fears of the Russian revolution: those who supported it viewed the station as a portal for accomplishment, while those who fled from it viewed the station as a means of escape. Today, the station still runs trains to and from St. Petersburg. Next on this itinerary for Russia tours is the Aurora cruiser that fired the first shots of the conflict.

Aurora Cruiser

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This battleship serves as icon and museum alike. Visitors on a tour to Russia may step inside the 110-year old ship to not only see how sailors lived a century ago, but also to see many of the relics of the Imperial Navy and the revolution itself.

This cruser lay at anchor during the October revolution in St. Petersburg, when sailors who distrusted the Tsar and wished to join the revolution famously shot their commanding officers and declared that they would join the Bolshevik cause.

The ship and her crew officially started the revolution by firing on the Winter Palace. No shot hit the Palace, however, since it was merely a blank round that that served as the catalyst for the Bolshevik attack. Next on the St. Petersburg Russia tour is the headquarters of the Duma republic, the Tauride Palace.

Tauride Palace

One of the largest of all the historical points of interest in St. Petersburg, the Tauride Palace served as the assembly point for the short-lived Duma that succeeded the Tsar and proceeded the Bolshevik Communist Party. It had served as Catherine the Great’s summer home, where an entire town would heat it up on cold days by walking through the halls.

During the revolution, the moderate Menshevik Duma held constitutional meetings in the Tauride convention halls. The first elections held proved so disastrous for the Mensheviks, with ninety-five percent of the vote going to radical socialists like the Bolsheviks, that they declared the votes would not count.

As a result, Lenin used the vote to curry public favor away from the Mensheviks, eventually causing all-out war between the two factions. Next on the Russia tours in St. Petersburg is the Smolny Palace.

Smolny Palace

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One of the most beautiful buildings in all of the tours to Russia, the Smolny palace (also known as the Smolny Cathedral or convent) took nearly a full century to build. Endowed by the Tsars, this palace bears beautiful architecture, stained glass, gilt decor, and a blue-and-white color pattern.

Since it served as a symbol of the Tsar opulence, it proved to be the first building looted in the revolution and the site where Lenin declared the Bolshevik victory at the end of the civil war to the now-unified Soviet socialist state. After the revolution, it served as a mere storehouse.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a real welcome to Russia and her awe-inspiring past, a tour to Russia and St. Petersburg will give you a real-life understanding of the events of the 1917 Revolution. The transition from Tsardom to short-lived republic to socialist state can be observed at many points, but the most crucial developments took place at the key junctures mentioned in this walking tour.

Expert advice for this story is provided by our friends from Travel All Russia – world’s leading agency for tours to Russia.

(photo credit: 1, 2, 3)

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