#1917LIVE: Russia celebrates May Day freely for 1st time
Even though Russia is still using the old Julian calendar in 1917 – lagging behind the modern one by two weeks – the revolutionary authorities decided to celebrate Workers’ Day on May 1 along with the West to show solidarity with the workers of the world.
Despite freezing weather and sharp gusts of wind, thousands flocked to the city center - workers, soldiers, men, women, and children marched through the streets towards the Field of Mars.
The demonstrators sang revolutionary songs and carried banners reading “8-hour work day,” “Long live brotherhood of nations,” and other slogans about labor rights, socialism, and peace.
As reported by the Russkiye Vedomosti newspaper, a group of female factory workers was followed by a pious-looking old lady wearing a red bow, followed by eight- to 13-year-old orphanage girls and a priest, trailed by a column of Ukrainian soldiers – the revolutionary crowd could not have been more diverse.
As the Great War is raging in Europe, anti-war sentiment is on the rise – the country is exhausted and drained by the endless warfare. Most clearly these ideas are stated by Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, who has recently returned from his exile in Switzerland.
Lenin addressed the Workers’ Day demonstrators with his radical ideas about class struggle, demanding Russia leave the war, for which he is accused of being a German spy.
He insists the war is imperialist in nature and the proletariat should turn it into a civil war against the oppressing classes.
The Provisional Government meanwhile reassures its Entente allies of Russia’s commitment and tries to boost people’s morale in the fight against the Germans.
Ousted Tsar Nicholas II, who is now under house arrest with his family in the Tsarskoye Selo imperial residence, has nothing good to say about the rallies.
Petrogradsky Listok daily mocks the calendar difference: “Today is May 1. And tomorrow is… April 19. Are we really going to be again thrown back from the entire civilized world by 2 weeks?”
International Workers’ Day was marked widely across the country, but newspapers note that the atmosphere was not as jubilant as it was earlier on during the revolution.
“In this mighty crowd you could feel caution and anxiety for this young, fledgling freedom; you could feel fear for the integrity of the revolutionary democracy. The ghost of Lenin hovered over the crowd, ” Birzhevyye Vedomosti newspaper reported about the rallies in Petrograd.