Such was the rudimentary level of intelligence among the mass of local officials that almost any scrap of paper, so long as it carried a large stamp and seal, could be enough to impress them as a government document. One Englishman traveled throughout Russia with no other passport than his tailor's bill from Jermyn Street which he flaunted in the face of the local officials.... No official had dared to question it.
Gorky (1918): 'Petrograd is dying as a city... Everyone is leaving it--by foot, by horse, by train. Dead horses lie in the streets. The dogs eat them. The city is unbelievably dirty. The Moika and Fontanka [Rivers] are full of rubbish. This is the death of Russia.'
The few surviving photographs of the October Days clearly show the small size of the insurgent force. They depict a handful of Red Guards and sailors standing around half-deserted streets. None of the familiar images of a people's revolution --- crowds on the street, barricades, and fighting -- were in evidence.
There was no 'private Lenin' behind the politician. AQll biographies of the Bolshevik leader become unavoidably discussions of his political ideas and influence. Lenin's personal life was extraordinarily dull. He dressed and lived like a middle-aged provincial clerk, with precisely fixed hours for meals, sleep, work and leisure. He liked everything to be neat and orderly.
No one really tried to revive the monarchy. It is telling, for example, that none of the White leaders in the civil war embraced monarchism as a cause, despite the efforts of the many monarchists in their ranks. The White leaders all realized that politically it would be suicide for them to do so.
The Kadet politician V A Maklakov summed up the liberals' dilemma in a widely quoted article... He compared Russia to an automobile being driven down a steep and dangerous hill at uncontrollable speed by a mad chauffeur (Nicholas). Among the passengers are one's mother (Russia) plus competent drivers who recognize they are being driven to inevitable doom.
With the Russian Empire teetering on the brink of collapse, the tsarist regime responded to the crisis with its usual incompetency and obstinacy. Witte called it 'a mixture of cowardice, blindness and stupidity.' The basic problem was that Nicholas ... continued to fill his diary with terse and trivial notes on the weather, the company at tea and the number of birds he had shot that day.
The famine crisis of 1891 seemed to underline the backwardness of the peasantry. It showed that they were doomed to die out, both as individuals and as a class, under the wheels of economic development. The peasants were a relic of Russia's savage past -- its Aziatchina or Asiatic way of life -- which would inevitably be swept away by the progress of industry.