A peasant revolt in Orlov (1917)

Peasant revolts and land seizures became quite common as during the period of Dual Power. This account, taken from the August 1st 1917 edition of the Soviet newspaper Izvestia, describes spontaneous but violent uprisings in the Orlov guberniya, north-east of Moscow:

“Each year, the peasants rented their land from the landholder. This year, they went to him as usual and he asked the usual rent. The peasants refused to pay it and without much bargaining went home.

There they called a meeting and decided to take up the land without paying. They put the ploughs and harrows on their carts and started for the field. When they arrived, they got into an argument as to the division of the land because it was not all of the same quality.

When they had quarrelled for a time, one of the party proposed that they proceed to the landholder’s warehouse, where some good alcohol was kept. They broke into the palace, with a found 50 barrels. They drank and drank but could not drink at all. They become so drunk that they did not know what they were doing and carelessly set the place on fire. Four burned to death, the 90 others escaped.

A few days later, they returned to the field and once more quarrelled. It ended in a fight in which 13 were left dead, 15 were carried off badly injured and of these, or died.

Soon after that, a quarrel started over the rich peasants. In the village, there were 18 farmers who had from 25 to 30 hectares of land. They had a reserve of grain of various kinds. About 30 of the villagers seized this reserve.

Another village meeting was called. A few more of the more intelligent peasants came out strongly against this act of robbery. It ended in another fight in which three were killed and five badly wounded. One of these peasants, whose son was killed, shook his fist and shouted “I will make you pay for my son”.”