Lenin departs for Russia

When we received the letter from Berne telling us that Platten’s negotiations had been successfully concluded, and that as soon as the protocol was signed we could start for Russia, Ilyich sprang to his feet: “Let us catch the first train.” The train was due to leave in two hours. In those two hours we had to wind up our “household,” settle with the landlady, return the books to the library, pack up and so on. “Go by yourself, I’ll leave tomorrow,” I said. But Ilyich insisted on us going together. In two hours everything was done – the books packed, letters destroyed, the necessary clothes and articles selected, and all affairs settled. We caught the first train to Berne.

All the comrades who were going to Russia gathered at the People’s House in Berne. Among the passengers were the Zinovievs, the Usieviches, Inessa Armand, the Safarovs, Olga Ravich, Abramovich from Chaux-de-Fonds, Grebelskaya, Kharitonov, Linda Rosenblum, Boitsov, Mikha Tskhakaya, the Marienhoffs and Sokolnikov. Radek went under the guise of a Russian. Altogether thirty people were going, not counting curly-headed little Robert, the four-yeard-old son of a Bundist woman.

We were escorted by Fritz Platten.

The defencists raised a terrible hullabaloo about the Bolsheviks travelling through Germany. Naturally, the German Government gave permission for us to travel through Germany in the belief that revolution was a disaster to a country, and that by allowing emigrant internationalists to return to their country they were helping to spread the revolution to Russia. The Bolsheviks, for their part, considered it their duty to develop revolutionary agitation in Russia, and made it their aim to bring about a victorious proletarian revolution. They did not care what the German bourgeois government thought about it. They knew that the defencists would start a mud-slinging campaign against them, but that the masses in the long run would follow their lead. At that time, on March 27 [April 9 on the modern calendar], the Bolsheviks were the only ones to take the risk of going that way. A month later, over two hundred emigrants, including Martov and other Mensheviks, followed the same route through Germany.

‘Lenin’s Train: A Trip to the Revolution’

When boarding the train, no one examined either our luggage or our passports. Ilyich withdrew completely into himself, and his thoughts ran forward into Russia. The talk during the journey was mostly of a trivial nature. Robert’s chirpy voice rang through the car. He took a great liking to Sokolnikov, and would have no truck with the women. The Germans went out of their way to show that they had plenty of everything, and the cook served up good square meals, to which our emigrant fraternity was hardly accustomed. Looking out of the carriage window, we were struck by the total absence of grown-up men. Only women, teenagers and children could be seen at the wayside stations, on the fields, and in the streets of the towns. This impression often came back to me during the early days of our arrival in Petrograd, where the tramcars were packed with soldiers.

In Berlin our train was shunted to a siding. Just before we came to Berlin, several German Social-Democrats had got in in a special compartment. None of us spoke to them except Robert, who looked into their compartment and began interrogating them in French: “What does the conductor do?” I don’t know what the Germans told Robert, but I do know that they had no chance to put any questions of their own to the Bolsheviks. On March 31 we arrived in Sweden. At Stockholm we were met by the Swedish Social-Democratic M.P.’s Lindhagen, Karlsson, Strom, T. Nerman and others. A red flag had been hung up in the waiting room and a meeting was held there. I have only a dim recollection of Stockholm, as all my thoughts were in Russia. The Provisional Government of Russia did not allow Fritz Platten and Radek into the country. It did not dare to stop the Bolsheviks, however. We crossed into Finland from Sweden in Finnish country sleighs. Everything was dear and familiar – the rickety old third-class carriages, the Russian soldiers. It made you feel good. It was not long before Robert woke up in the arms of an elderly soldier, and clasped him round the neck, chattering away to him in French and eating the sweet Easter cream-cheese with which the soldier was feeding him. We all huddled round the windows. The station platforms we passed were crowded with soldiers. Usievich leaned out and shouted: “Long live the world revolution!” The soldiers stared at him. A pale-faced lieutenant passed us several times, and when Ilyich and I went into the next car, which was empty, he sat down beside Ilyich and engaged him in conversation. The lieutenant was a defencist. They began a spirited argument. Ilyich, too, was very pale. Little by little the car filled with soldiers until it was packed tight. They stood up on the seats the better to be able to see and hear the man who was speaking in such understandable terms against the predatory war. Their faces grew tense as they listened with growing interest.

N.K. Krupskaya, “Last Months in Emigration,” Reminiscences of Lenin


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