Looting the looters

Orlando Figes

  • The Russian City between Tradition and Modernity, 1850-1900 by Daniel Brower
    California, 253 pp, £18.95, July 1990, ISBN 0 520 06764 9
  • St Petersburg between the Revolutions. Workers and Revolutionaries: June 1907-February 1917 by Robert McKean
    Yale, 606 pp, £27.50, June 1990, ISBN 0 300 04791 6

When the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace on the night of 25 October 1917, they discovered one of the largest wine cellars ever known to the world. During the following days, crowds went on a drunken rampage through St Petersburg. Shops were looted, and well-to-do houses robbed. Sometimes their owners were tortured or killed for sport. Mikhail Uritsky, one of the Bolshevik leaders of the October uprising, was dragged from his sleigh, stripped naked, and left to continue his journey on foot as he returned one snowy night from a meeting with Lenin. With his warm overcoat, his pince-nez and his Jewish intellectual looks he had been mistaken for a bourgeois – a boorzhooi.

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