Kollontai: ‘By order of the Kerensky regime I was arrested on the border’

At the end of June, I was sent by my Party to Stockholm as a delegate to an international consultation which was interrupted when news reached us of the July uprising against the Provisional Government and of the extremely harsh measures that the government was taking against the Bolsheviks.

Many of our leading Party comrades had already been arrested, others, including Lenin, had managed to escape and go into hiding. The Bolsheviks were accused of high treason and branded as spies of the German Kaiser. The uprising was brought to a standstill and the coalition regime retaliated against all those who had manifested sympathy for the Bolsheviks.

History of Russia
Bolshevik leader Alexandra Kollontai

I immediately decided to return to Russia, although my friends and Party comrades considered this to be a risky undertaking. They wanted me to go to Sweden and await the course of events. Well-intentioned as these counsels were, and correct as they also appeared to me later, I nevertheless could not heed them. I simply had to go back. Otherwise it would appear to me as an act of cowardice to take advantage of the privilege, that had become mine, of remaining wholly immune from the persecutions of the Provisional Government, when a great number of my political friends were sitting in jail. Later I realized that, perhaps, I might have been able to be move useful to our cause from Sweden, but I was under the compulsion of the moment.

By order of the Kerensky regime I was arrested on the border of Torneo and subjected to the most boorish treatment as a spy … But the arrest itself proceeded quite theatrically: during the inspection of my passport I was requested to step into the commandant’s office. I understood what that meant. A number of soldiers were standing in an enormous room, pressed close against each other. Two young officers were also present, one of them being the charming young man who had received me so amiably four months previously. A veritable silence prevailed in the room. The facial expression of the first officer, Prince B., betrayed a great nervousness.

Composed, I waited to see what would happen next. “You are under arrest,” explained Prince B. “So. Has the counter-revolution triumphed? Do we again have a monarchy?” “No,” was the gruff reply. “You are under arrest by order of the Provisional Government.” “I have been expecting it. Please, let my suitcase be brought in, I don’t want it to be lost.” “But, of course. Lieutenant, the suitcase!” I saw how the officers heaved a sigh of relief, and how the soldiers left the room with displeasure writ large on their faces.

Later I learned that my arrest had occasioned a protest among the soldiers who insisted upon witnessing the arrest. The officers, however, had feared that I might make a speech to the soldiers. “In that case we would have been lost,” one of them told me afterwards.

I was forced to wait for the course of the investigation, like the other Bolsheviks, in a Petrograd prison, in strict isolation. The more incredibly the regime conducted itself towards the Bolsheviks, the more their influence grew.

Alexandra Kollontai, “The Years of Revolution,” The Autobiography of a Sexually Emancipated Communist Woman

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