Russian Revolution quotations

A collection of Russian Revolution quotations from leaders, politicians, commentators and historians. Note: this page is being compiled and expanded in February 2015. More quotations will be added in due course. If you would like to suggest or submit a quotation for this page, please contact Alpha History.

Russian tsarism

“Autocracy is a superannuated form of government that may suit the needs of a Central African tribe, but not those of the Russian people, who are increasingly assimilating the culture of the rest of the world. That is why it is impossible to maintain this form of government except by violence.”
Nicolai Tolstoy

Nicholas II

“What is going to happen to me and all of Russia? I am not prepared to be a Tsar. I never wanted to become one. I know nothing of the business of ruling.”
Nicholas II

“Be more autocratic than Peter the Great and sterner than Ivan the Terrible.”
Tsarina Alexandra, to her husband 

“I will preserve the principle of Autocracy as firmly and unflinchingly as my late father.”
Nicholas II

“I pity the Tsar. I pity Russia. He is a poor and unhappy sovereign. What did he inherit and what will he leave? He is obviously a good and quite intelligent man, but he lacks willpower, and it is from that character that his state defects developed, that is, his defects as a ruler, especially an autocratic and absolute ruler.”
Sergei Witte, Russian minister 

“I am fully convinced that great and beautiful times are coming for your reign and Russia…we must give a strong country to Baby and dare not be weak for his sake…Don’t let things slip through your fingers and leave it to him to build all over again. Be firm…How I wish I could pour my will into your veins.”
Tsarina Alexandra, to her husband

“I shall never, under any circumstances, agree to a representative form of government because I consider it harmful to the people whom God has entrusted to my care.”
Nicholas II

The 1905 Revolution

“Comrade Workers, tear up all portraits of the blood-sucking Tsar and say to him: Be thou damned with all Thine august reptilian progeny!”
Georgi Gapon during 1905

“Rioting and disturbances in the capitals and in many localities of Our Empire fill Our heart with great and heavy grief. The well-being of the Russian Sovereign is inseparable from the national well-being; the national sorrow is His sorrow.”
Nicholas II, writing in October 1905

“Curse the Duma. It’s all Witte’s fault.”
Nicholas II

“The tragic aspect of the situation is that the Tsar is living in an utter fool’s paradise, thinking that He is as strong and all-powerful as before.”
Sergei Witte in 1905

“As long as I live, I will never trust that man (Witte) again with the smallest thing. I had quite enough with last year’s experiment. It is still like a nightmare to me.”
Nicholas II, writing in 1906

“I must carry through effective measures of reform, and at the same time I must face the revolution, resist it and stop it.”
Petr Stolypin, 1906

“There is no limit to the assistance I am ready to give and the concessions I am willing to make to put the peasantry on the path of cultural development. If we fail to carry out this reform we should all be swept on to the rubbish heap… The government has placed its wager, not on the needy and the drunken, but on the sturdy and the strong”.
Petr Stolypin in 1908

World War I

“In a year of the war the regular army had vanished. It was replaced by an army of ignoramuses.”
General Brusilov


“He is just a good, religious, simple-minded Russian. When in trouble or assailed by doubts I like to have a talk with him, and invariably feel at peace with myself afterwards.”
Nicholas II on Rasputin

“Our Friend’s [Rasputin’s] opinions of people are sometimes very strange, as you know yourself; therefore one must be careful.”
Nicholas II

“The appearance in [the royal] court of Grigory Rasputin, and the influence he exercised there, mark the beginning of the decay of Russian society and the loss of prestige for the throne and for the person of the Tsar himself.”
Rodzianko, chairman of the Duma

“I am obliged to report that, at the present moment, the Russian Empire is run by lunatics.”
Maurice Paleologue, French ambassador

“I wish to make known to the Russian people, to Papa [Nicholas II] the Russian mother and to the children, to the land of Russia, what they must understand. If I am killed by common assassins, and especially by my brothers the Russian peasants, you, Tsar of Russia, have nothing to fear, remain on your thrown and govern… But if I am murdered by nobles and if they shed my blood, their hands will remain soiled with my blood, for twenty-five years they will not wash their hands from my blood. They will leave Russia. Brothers will kill brothers… if it was your relations who have wrought my death then no one of your family, that is to say none of your children or relations, will remain alive for more then two years.”
Grigori Rasputin, in a 1916 letter to the tsarina

The February Revolution

“When the Duma with ever greater persistence insists that the rear must be organised for a successful struggle, while the government persists in claiming that organising the country means organising a revolution and deliberately prefers chaos and disorganization, then what is this: stupidity or treason?”
Pavel Milyukov in a November 1916 speech

“Situation serious. There is anarchy in the capital. Government paralysed. Transport of food and fuel completely disorganized. Public disaffection growing. On the streets, chaotic shooting. Army units fire at each other. It is essential at once to entrust a person enjoying the country’s confidence with the formation of a new government. There should be no delay. All delay is death.”
Mikhail Rodzianko, telegram of February 1917

“That fat Rodzianko has again sent me some nonsense to which I will not even reply.”
Nicholas II, responding to Rodzianko in February 1917

“This is a hooligan movement, young people run and shout that there is no bread, simply to create excitement, along with workers who prevent others from working. If the weather were very cold they would probably all stay at home. But all this will pass and become calm if only the Duma will behave itself.”
Tsarina Alexandra, February 1917

The Dual Power

“The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies… enjoys all the elements of real power, since the troops, the railways, the post and telegraph are in its hands. One can say flatly that the Provisional Government exists only so long as it is permitted by the Soviet.”
Alexander Guchkov

“It is obscene to applaud such rubbish. These are the ravings of a lunatic.”
Alexander Bogdanov on Lenin’s April Theses

“For the sake of the nations life it was necessary to restore the army’s will to die.”
Alexander Kerensky on the June Offensive

“Only the Bolsheviks marched. I despise and hate them more and more. They are truly Russian idiots.”
Maxim Gorky, July 1917

“The only way to save the country now is to close down the Soviet and shoot the people. I cannot do that. But Kerensky can.”
Georgy L’vov, July 1917

“Hang the German supporters and spies, with Lenin at their head, and disperse the Soviet.”
General Lavr Kornilov

Lenin and the Bolsheviks

“We are not doctrinaires. Our theory is a guide to action, not a dogma. We do not claim that Marx knew or Marxists know the road to socialism down to the last detail. It would be nonsense to claim anything of the kind.”
Vladimir Lenin

The October Revolution

“Before history, before the international proletariat, before the Russian Revolution and the Russian working class, we have no right to stake the whole future on the card of an armed uprising.”
Lev Kamenev, September 1917

“The will of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets has been predetermined by the enormous feat of the uprising of Petrograd workers and soldiers which occurred last night.”
Leon Trotsky, October 1917

“The congress was called to primarily discuss the question of forming a new government, and yet what do we see? We find that an irresponsible seizure of power has already occurred and that the will of the congress had been decided beforehand… We must save the revolution from this mad venture.”
Georgi Kuchin, Menshevik delegate

“A rising of the masses requires no justification. What has happened is an insurrection, and not a conspiracy. We hardened the revolutionary energy of the Petersburg workers and soldiers. We openly forged the will of the masses for an insurrection, and not a conspiracy. The masses followed our banner and our insurrection was victorious. And now we are told: Renounce your victory, make concessions, compromise. With whom I ask?…No, here no compromise is possible. To those who have left and those who tell us to do this we must say: You are miserable bankrupts, your role is played out; go back where you ought to go: into the dustbin of history!”.
Leon Trotsky at the Second Congress of Soviets

“The entire labour of practical organisation of the insurrection was placed under the immediate direction of the President of the Petrograd Soviet, Comrade Trotsky. It can be stated with certainty, that the party owes the rapid coming over of the garrison into the camp of the soviets and the skillful work of the Revolutionary Military Committee above all, and particularly to Comrade Trotsky.”
Joseph Stalin, November 1917

“Lenin and his comrades-in-arms think they can commit any crime, like the massacre at Petrograd, the storming of Moscow, abolition of freedom of speech, the senseless arrests – all the abominations that used to be committed by Plehve and Stolypin.”
Maxim Gorky, November 1917

“A wild and unexampled orgy spread over Petrograd… We tried to stop them by walling up the entrances. The crowd penetrated through the windows, forced out the bars and grabbed the stocks. An attempt was made to flood the cellars with water. The fire brigade sent to do this themselves got drunk… The whole city was infected by the drinking madness. At last the Council of People’s Commissars appointed a special commissar, endowed him with emergency powers, and gave him a strong escort. But the commissar too proved unreliable… Only after an intense effort was this alcoholic lunacy overcome.”
Antonov-Ovsenko, Bolshevik military commander

“I am especially distrustful of a Russian when he gets power into his hands. Not long ago a slave, he becomes the most unbridled despot as soon as he has the chance to become his neighbor’s master.”
Maxim Gorky

Shaping the new Russia

“Is what you want? A miserable little bourgeois republic? In the name of the great Soviet republic of labour we declare war to the death on such a government!”
Nikolai Bukharin in the Constituent Assembly

“The toiling masses have become convinced by their experience that bourgeois parliamentarianism is outdated; that it is completely incompatible with the construction of socialism.”
Vladimir Lenin

“To hand over power to the Constituent Assembly would again be compromising with the malignant bourgeoisie.”
Vladimir Lenin

“Trotsky degraded the conference-table to the level of a tub-thumper’s street corner… Lenin and Trotsky behaved more like victors than vanquished, while trying to sow the seeds of political dissolution in the ranks of our army.”
Paul von Hindenburg on negotiations at Brest-Litovsk

Revolutionary war and terror

“We were always for revolutionary war. The bayonet is an essential necessity for introducing communism.”
Karl Radek

“The Cheka is the defense of the revolution as the Red Army is; as in the civil war the Red Army cannot stop to ask whether it may harm particular individuals, but must take into account only one thing, the victory of the revolution over the bourgeoisie, so the Cheka must defend the revolution and conquer the enemy even if its sword falls occasionally on the heads of the innocent.”
Felix Dzerzhinsky

“First you must ask him to what class he belongs, what his social origin is, his education and profession. These are the questions that must determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning of the Red Terror.”
Martin Latsis

“We must execute not only the guilty. Execution of the innocent will impress the masses even more.”
Nikolai Krylenko, commissar for justice

“The Cheka is not an investigating commission, a court, or a tribunal. It is a fighting organ on the internal front of the civil war… It does not judge, it strikes. It does not pardon, it destroys all who are caught on the other side of the barricade.”
Martin Latsis

“I have long had the intention of killing Lenin. In my eyes he has betrayed the revolution. I was for the Constituent Assembly and still am.”
Fanya Kaplan

“If we are not ready to shoot a saboteur and a White Guard, what sort of Revolution is that? Nothing but talk and a bowl of mush.”
Vladimir Lenin

“We must put an end once and for all to the papist-Quaker babble about the sanctity of human life.”
Leon Trotsky

“I can do nothing with my army. I am glad when it carries out my combat orders.”
Anton Denikin, White general

“An army cannot be built without repression. The commander will always find it necessary to place the soldier between the possibility that death lies ahead and the certainty that it lies behind.”
Leon Trotsky

“The kulaks are the rabid foes of the Soviet government… These leeches have sucked the blood of the working people and grown richer as the workers in the cities and factories starved…Ruthless war on the kulaks! Death to them!”
Vladimir Lenin, 1918

“We Communists recognize only one sacred right – the right of the working man, his wife, and his child to live. We did not hesitate to wrest the land away from the landlords, to transfer the factories, mills, and railroads into the hands of the people…and, by the force of arms, to tear the crown from the stupid Tsar’s head. Why then should we hesitate to take the grain away from the kulaks?”
Leon Trotsky

Economic suffering and recovery

“Only the Commissars live a pleasant life these days. They steal as much as they can from the ordinary people in order to pay for their courtesans and their unsocialist luxuries.”
Maxim Gorky, 1919

“By carrying out the October Revolution the working class had hoped to achieve its emancipation. But the result has been an even greater enslavement of human beings. The power of the monarchy, with its police and gendarmerie, has passed into the hands of the Communist usurpers, who have given the people not freedom but the constant fear of torture by the Cheka, the horrors of which far exceed the rule of the gendarmerie under tsarism.”
Kronstadt sailors, 1921

“War Communism was thrust upon us by war and ruin. It was not, nor could it be, a policy that corresponded to the economic tasks of the proletariat. It was a temporary measure.”
Vladimir Lenin

“The national economy must be put back on its feet at all costs. The first thing to do is to restore, consolidate, and improve peasant farming… Let the people have their slice of capitalism.”
Vladimir Lenin on the NEP

“We shall build socialism even on our impoverished base, we shall drag ourselves along at a snail’s pace, but we shall build socialism.”
Nikolai Bukharin on the NEP

“The New Economic Policy is only a temporary deviation, a tactical retreat, a clearing of land for a new and decisive attack of labour against the front of international capitalism.”
Grigori Zinoviev

“I feel very tired: during the past seven years in Russia I have seen and lived through so many sad dramas – the more sad for not being caused by the logic of passion and free will but by the blind and cold calculation of fanatics and cowards…I still believe fervently in the future happiness of mankind but I am sickened and disturbed by the growing sum of suffering which people have to pay as the price of their fine hopes.”
Maxim Gorky, 1921

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