Responses to the July Days uprising

One hundred years ago this week, from July 16-20, 1917 (July 3-7 according to the Julian calendar in use in Russia at the time), a protest movement of workers and soldiers in Petrograd was repelled by military and police attacks, with hundreds of casualties.

The July Uprising or July Days came about due to the failure of the Russian military offensive in June, a worsening of the crisis in Petrograd's food and fuel supply, and a crisis of confidence in the government after two Liberal (Kadet) ministers resigned over their opposition to Ukrainian autonomy.

In the wake of the offensive's collapse, mass unrest arose in the Russian army, which could no longer fight effectively. The uprising began among soldiers in the Petrograd garrison who feared transfer to the front, but also involved workers already on strike over low wages. Workers and soldiers demanded "all power to the soviets" and raised other radical slogans.

Members of the Bolshevik Military Organization, anarchists and Left Social Revolutionaries encouraged the soldiers' revolt. The Central Committee of the Bolsheviks originally opposed the uprising, but quickly changed its position to one of support after tens of thousands of demonstrators surrounded the Tauride Palace, where the Soviet met.

The defeat of the July movement temporarily checked the revolution's impetus, as the Provisional Government drove the Bolshevik movement semi-underground and arrested Leon Trotsky and many other revolutionary leaders.

The first document below represents the position toward the uprising of the moderate socialists, who then held a majority in the soviets. The second document provides the Bolshevik point of view.

These documents were selected and translated, and the above annotation written, by Barbara Allen, author of the biography Alexander Shlyapnikov, 1885-1937: Life of an Old Bolshevik. They are part of an SW series giving a view from the streets during the 1917 Russian Revolution. The series is edited by John Riddell and co-published at his website.

"Protests Strike Blows Against Our Brothers at the Front"

Russian soldiers demonstrate against war during the summer of 1917Russian soldiers demonstrate against war during the summer of 1917

To all workers and soldiers of the city of Petrograd.

Soldier and worker comrades!

Despite the clearly expressed will of all socialist parties without exception, unknown people are calling upon you to go out armed onto the street. This is how they propose that you should protest against the disbanding of regiments which dishonored themselves at the front by criminally abandoning their duty to the revolution.

As the authorized representatives of all Russia's revolutionary democratic forces, we declare to you:

Army and front organizations demanded the disbandment of regiments at the front, which was carried out by the order of War Minister Comrade A.F. Kerensky, whom we chose.

The protests in defense of the disbanded regiments strike blows against our brothers who are spilling their blood at the front.

We remind the soldier comrades that not one military unit has the right to go out armed without the permission of the commander-in-chief, who is acting in full agreement with us.

What else to read

Read other leaflets, statements and documents from the Russian Revolution in this series titled "1917: The View from the Streets" edited by John Riddell.

Bolshevik leaflet
To the revolutionary students of Russia

Mezhraionka leaflet
The day of the people's wrath is near

Menshevik leaflet
Only a provisional government can bring freedom and peace

Bolshevik leaflet
For a provisional revolutionary government

Mezhraionka leaflet
A day to prepare for conquering the enemy

Mezhraionka leaflet
For a general strike against autocracy

Mezhraionka leaflet
Soldiers, take power into your own hands!

Polish socialist workers' appeal
The only guarantee of Polish independence

Petrograd Soviet appeal
Joining together to achieve peace

Petrograd Soviet Executive appeals
Calling for peace...and renewed offensives

Bolshevik and Petrograd Soviet Executive appeals
A Bolshevik appeal finds an echo in the streets

Bolshevik and Petrograd Soviet Executive appeals
Responses to the July Days uprising

Bolshevik leaflets
The Bolsheviks retreat in order to advance

Albert Rhys Williams
On the left sat the Bolsheviks

Albert Rhys Williams
The soldiers in revolt

Albert Rhys Williams
Comrades of the sea

Albert Rhys Williams
The mighty cry of "All power to the Soviets"

Albert Rhys Williams
Making a new date in history

Albert Rhys Williams
The taking of the Winter Palace

Albert Rhys Williams
The red convicts of Cherm

We declare that all those who violate this decision during this so critical time for Russia are traitors and enemies of the revolution.

We will implement this decision by all the means at our disposal.

Bureau of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies
Bureau of the All-Russian Executive Committee of Soviets of Peasants' Deputies
July 16-17 (3-4), 1917

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"Let the All-Russian Soviet Take All Power"

Worker and soldier comrades of Petrograd! Given that the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie has obviously come out against the revolution, let the All-Russian Soviet of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies take all power into its hands.

This is the will of the revolutionary population of Petrograd, which has the right to bring its will, by means of peaceful and organized demonstration, to the attention of the Executive Committees of the All-Russian Soviet of Workers', Soldiers', and Peasants' Deputies, which is now in session.

Long live the will of the revolutionary workers and soldiers!

Long live the power of the soviets!

The coalition government suffered failure. Unable to carry out the tasks for which it was created, it collapsed. The revolution faces enormous and extremely difficult tasks. A new authority is needed that would, in unity with the revolutionary proletariat, the revolutionary army, and the revolutionary peasantry, resolutely fortify the people's conquests. Only the soviets of workers', soldiers' and peasants' deputies can be such an authority.

Yesterday, the revolutionary garrison of Petrograd and workers came out to advance the slogan "All power to the Soviet!" We call for the transformation of this movement, which flared up in the regiments and in the factories, into the peaceful, organized expression of the will of all of worker, soldier, and peasant Petrograd.

Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party (RSDWP)
Petersburg Committee of the RSDWP
Inter-district Committee of the RSDWP
Military Organization of the CC RSDWP
Commission of the Workers' Section of the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies
July 16-17 (3-4), 1917

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Source: Both documents reprinted in A.G. Shlyapnikov, Semnadtsatyi god, volume 4, 1931, 259-260, 263. Translated by Barbara Allen.

Historical References:
-- Alexander Rabinowitch, Prelude to Revolution: The Petrograd Bolsheviks and the July 1917 Uprising (Indiana University Press, 1968, reprinted in 1991), pp. 54-79.

-- Rex A. Wade, The Russian Revolution, 1917 (Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 179-180.

A note on Russian dates: The Julian calendar used by Russia in 1917 ran 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar that is in general use today. In the "View from the Streets" series, centennials are reckoned by the Gregorian calendar; dates are given with the Gregorian ("New Style") date first, followed by the Julian date in parentheses.