Bazhanov D. A. Radicalization of Power Institutions on Baltic Navy Ships in Autumn 1917 (.pdf)
The article is devoted to political struggle on the ships of the Baltic Fleet in the fall of 1917. The author identifies the sources of a surge of radicalization in the days of Lavr Kornilov’s suppression. Later, according to the author, these sentiments were manifested in the decisions of general personnel meetings. They were used by left-wing political forces to increase their influence in the central bodies of the revolutionary self-government. The establishment of extraordinary posts of commissars, as well as the transformation of general command meetings into a full-fledged governing body of ships and parts of the Baltic Fleet, became definite steps that affected the redistribution of the influence in the government. General meetings reflected the characteristics of changing moods. Their decisions also demonstrated the fear of losing what the revolution gave to the lower ranks, i.e. the ability to influence the discussion of various issues of those times, as well as to make decisions on issues affecting their living conditions and military service. At the same time, there was a readiness to fight radically with those who appeared to be opponents of their rights. The decisions to repress and arrest those representatives of the commanding staff who refused to demonstrate loyalty were connected with that willingness to fight. In September, general meetings using the right to recall representatives changed the balance of the power in the Tsentrobalt and Helsingfors Council, where, before that, the position of the Socialist Revolutionary Internationalists and the Bolsheviks were not predominant. The representatives of the “left bloc” undoubtedly enjoyed this spirit, in some cases directly provoking meetings to discuss the actions and moral character of their representatives. Reception was especially effective in cases where representatives of those parties occupied the posts of commissars on ships. Using their status and rights of control, they concentrated in their hands the management of the ship self-government organs – committees and general assemblies. As a result, such changes in the control system on the ships of the Baltic Fleet became an indicator of a surge in radical sentiment. At the same time, they brought it in line with the ideas of, first and foremost, the sailors’ masses concerning a fair, democratic government. The parties, whose representatives took into account and, to a certain extent, were ready to indulge these sentiments, received massive support from a very real and effective force - the sailors of the Baltic Fleet.
Key words: Baltic Fleet, commissar, common assemblies, radicalization, Revolution of 1917, ship committees, Tsentrobalt.