Rifles for the revolution, or why the cobblestone did not become a weapon of the proletariat

Rifles for the revolution, or why the cobblestone did not become a weapon of the proletariat

Categories: History

People of the older generation remember well the sculpture by Ivan Shadr “Cobblestone - the weapon of the proletariat.” But it is well known that a revolution without weapons is doomed to failure. Carrying out a coup implies armed confrontation with the government, which defends itself in all possible ways. But where did the Bolsheviks get the weapons to overthrow the regime in 1917? This interesting question was answered by writer and weapons expert Semyon Fedoseev.

Rifles for the revolution, or why the cobblestone did not become a weapon of the proletariat

Nowadays, a pistol or machine gun is one of the symbols of belonging to the security forces or elites. But in Tsarist Russia, anyone could buy a firearm. Revolvers and Brownings were sold in hardware stores and the only limitation was their price. If at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century you could buy a cow for 10 rubles, then a revolver cost 45, and you still had to buy expensive cartridges for it.

Rifles for the revolution, or why the cobblestone did not become a weapon of the proletariat

Everything changed after the January Revolution of 1905. On Bloody Sunday, people robbed gun stores and took revolvers from policemen and gendarmes. It became clear that weapons in the hands of ordinary people are a dangerous thing. Therefore, the sale of weapons to the population was limited, and advertisements appeared in catalogs and on store shelves. In the capital they looked like this:

It was very difficult for an ordinary person to obtain such permission. And those who were suspected of disloyalty to the authorities could say goodbye to the idea of legally obtaining weapons.

Rifles for the revolution, or why the cobblestone did not become a weapon of the proletariat

Nevertheless, during the January riots of 1905, Muscovites and St. Petersburg residents found themselves with many illegal guns. They fell into the hands of people who knew what to do with them. There were also weapons that were legally purchased before the ban was introduced, but were not kept track of. The most popular were Browning automatic pistols - compact and quick-firing. It was from this that Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin was shot dead in a Kiev theater in 1900.

Another source of weapons was smuggling. It is known that in 1905 a large batch of foreign-made Brownings and revolvers arrived in Russia. She was transported from abroad by the smuggler Notan, using the Nadezhda transport company for this purpose. All of them were acquired in the spring of that year by the Bolsheviks.

Rifles for the revolution, or why the cobblestone did not become a weapon of the proletariat

The main direction for the illegal transfer of weapons was the Russian-Finnish border. Finland's autonomous position within the Russian Empire opened up good opportunities for corruption and smuggling. They negotiated with Finnish customs officers and generously paid for their assistance. Weapons flowed into Russia from the north in a wide stream. The first attempt to stop smuggling was made only in 1906, when they began to patrol the border from the Russian side.

The story of the steamship John Grafton is known, which was a real floating weapons smuggling shop. The ship roamed the seas, unloading its dangerous cargo either at Vindau, then at Kemi, or at Pietarsaari. His epic ended by accident - the ship, loaded to the brim with weapons, ran aground in the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea. The crew blew up the ship, but almost all of the cargo survived. A small batch of weapons was unloaded ashore and handed over to Finnish radicals, but most fell into the hands of the authorities.

The scale of the cargo aboard the John Grafton is impressive. The Russian police managed to seize 9,670 Vetterli rifles, 720 Webley revolvers, about 400 thousand rifle and 122 thousand revolver cartridges, about 192 pounds of explosives, 2 thousand detonators. No one knows how many weapons the smugglers saved.

Rifles for the revolution, or why the cobblestone did not become a weapon of the proletariat

At the same time, the Sirius steamship was cruising along the Caucasus coast in the Black Sea. Once he delivered to the Social Democrats in the Caucasus from 5 thousand to 8.5 thousand Vetterli rifles and up to 2 million cartridges for them. These weapons have been successfully used by revolutionaries and criminal elements for many years.

The classic weapon of the revolution was the Nagan system revolver of the 1895 model. It was produced in two versions - officer and soldier. The weapons for officers were self-cocking, that is, after each shot there was no need to cock the hammer. The Soldier's revolver did not have this feature, and therefore its rate of fire was lower.

The Mauser model K/96 was also very popular. It was produced in Germany, so it was impossible to purchase this weapon directly. But they still found a way out by purchasing pistols through Japanese trading houses. In 1915, the authorities bought 5,000 Mausers in this way. Another 1,500 units were supplied to Russia by Great Britain. In 1916, another 50 thousand Mausers were ordered from Great Britain, 100 thousand Colt M1911s were ordered from the USA, and 100 thousand Brownings were ordered from Spain.

Rifles for the revolution, or why the cobblestone did not become a weapon of the proletariat

In February 1917, a cargo of 47 thousand Colts arrived in Russia. They later played a role in the revolution and civil war. After this, American pistols became the standard weapons of the GPU and NKVD officers. But the undisputed weapon bestseller was still the Mauser. These German pistols, along with American Colts, even armed Stalin’s guards. The leader himself carried a pocket version of the 1910 Mauser.

Thanks to smugglers and the seizure of weapons from security forces, by 1917 the Bolsheviks were almost better armed than the police and army. Almost all weapons were imported, since self-loading pistols and rifles were not mass-produced in Russia. The only effective weapon produced in the country before 1920 was the famous Maxim machine gun.

During the February Revolution of 1917, the events of January 1905 were completely repeated. The rebels robbed gun shops and disarmed policemen. Military department warehouses were also seized. From there, more than 40 thousand rifles and 30 thousand revolvers went “to the people.” And this is only in the Petrograd Military District. After the victory of the revolution, most of these weapons were legalized. He was assigned to the city and workers' militia.

Rifles for the revolution, or why the cobblestone did not become a weapon of the proletariat

In the interval between the February and October revolutions there were no problems with weapons. It was issued to the Red Guard at factories as they were manufactured. This was the case at the Sestroretsk plant near Petrograd and arms factories in Izhevsk. The Provisional Government issued a decree on the population surrendering weapons, but only old grandfather's Berdankas were brought to the police. Rifles, revolvers and Mausers were waiting for their time, which came in October 1917.

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