The Kshesinskaya mansion: as a dancer, fought with the Bolsheviks

The Kshesinskaya mansion: as a dancer, fought with the Bolsheviks

In March 1917, the Bolsheviks occupied the house of the ballerina Matilda Kschessinska, who was the mistress of Nicholas II in the years 1892-1894 Grabar. The mansion, in the previous decade served as the center of social and cultural life of the Empire, became the headquarters of Lenin’s associates.

The team of St. Petersburg historians and Museum workers prepared the book “1917. Around Winter”, which describes the revolutionary Petrograd. This book is a kind of “reconstruction of historical reality, “animated” map of fatal events,” the authors write. 12 chapters of the publication dedicated to events happening in various places of the Petrograd Winter Palace, the Peter and Paul fortress, Smolny and Mariinsky Tavrichesky palaces on the Champ de Mars, the cruiser “Aurora”.

Russian service Bi-bi-si recounts a passage from the book, dedicated to the struggle of the ballerina Matilda Kschessinska in her mansion, which was occupied by the Bolsheviks in March 1917.

Palace in art Nouveau style

In April 1904 nobleman Alexander Colling purchased in St. Petersburg a land plot “total size of 730 fathoms square” at the intersection of Nevskiy Prospekt and a Large, Noble street (now Kuibyshev street).

After a year it became known that Colling is merely a facilitator.

A formal right of ownership of the site passed to the prima ballerina of the Mariinsky theatre Mathilda Kshesinskaya — one of the wealthiest women in the Russian Empire. For unknown reasons, she “didn’t want to announce yourself with a bidder of the property” immediately after the transaction.

In two years at the site, the building was constructed in art Nouveau style. The project was developed by the academician of architecture Alexander von Gogen.

In the next decade, the house of Kshesinskaia was one of the centers of cultural life of the Russian Empire. Petrograd, the audience is often called a luxurious mansion a Palace.

There were actors of the Alexandrinsky and Mariinsky theatres, ballet stars, including Isadora Duncan, as well as representatives of the Romanov dynasty, with which Kshesinskaya had a special relationship.

“For anybody was not a secret its proximity to the Imperial family — a long-standing affair with the heir Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, future Emperor Nicholas II, and the fact that it actually was a civil wife of Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich [a cousin of Nicholas II],” write the authors.

These relationships became the cause of anonymous threats that led a ballerina with her son is actually run from your own home 27 Feb 1917 (hereinafter all dates are old style). It only took a Gladstone bag of jewels.

In the following days, in the empty building has been a lot of people in Petrograd, “walking” a crowd of thousands. The interior of the house suffered greatly from these visits.

Soon the lower floors of the mansion took the “vehicles” — the soldiers of workshops of a reserve armored division car.

The Bolsheviks, who needed room for his party apparatus, quickly found a common language with soldiers. Central and St. Petersburg committees of the RSDLP (b) was moved to the building on March 11. Since that time, as he wrote to the Petrograd press that the house has become “the main headquarters of the Leninists”.

Lenin himself returned from exile in the night of 4 APR 1917 and had been in the mansion Kshesinskaia almost every day for the next three months. From here he directed the activities of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (b), held meetings, took the party leaders and numerous visitors.

Poor Matilda

Ballerina pretty quickly grew bolder and decided to reclaim the house. She tried to talk with the Bolsheviks. Those spoke politely, but to vacate the premises refused and openly mocked “poor” ballerina. Kschessinska went to authorities.

The only help from the “revolutionary democracy” was the resolution of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of workers ‘and soldiers’ deputies. The document States that the seizure of private property is invalid. The Petrograd Soviet called for “vehicles” to vacate the building.

However, the resolution did not help, as the Prosecutor’s demand to return the building to the owner. In the revolutionary Petrograd was in force only decisions that were supported by specific military and political force. The Minister of justice Alexander Kerensky told the dancer that the return home can not force, as this will end in bloodshed and further complicate the case.

In addition, public opinion was clearly not on the side of Kshesinskaia. She was the subject of rumors and ridicule.

The famous caricature of Kshesinskaia, painted by the artist Nikolai Remizov (he signed his cartoons Re-mi).

In the picture entitled “the Sacrifice of the new system,” depicts the ballerina lying on the bed. The caption under the picture reads: “Matilda of Kshesinskaya: “My close relationship to the old government were easy for me: it consisted only of one person. What am I going to do now that a new government — the Soviet of workers ‘and soldiers’ deputies — consists of 2000 people?!”.

Even among the liberal intelligentsia was popular opinion that the house of ballerina should be in the public domain. However, after a couple of months “terrible Lenin and his followers” seemed to the townsfolk much more dangerous than “Imperial concubines”, write the historians.

The MovieMatilda

Having exhausted almost all the possibilities, Kschessinska has filed a lawsuit against the Bolsheviks and their leader Lenin. The party in the process defended the Lithuanian revolutionary, lawyer Mieczyslaw Kozlowski. At the trial on 5 may he said that the Bolsheviks almost saved the building from destruction.

“[Revolutionary organization] took when it was empty, when the raging masses destroyed the Palace of Kshesinskaia, believing it to be a nest of counter-revolution, where I got linking with the Royal house Krasenkow, which, according to the understanding of the masses, was, if not a member of the Royal family, at least, mistress of the deposed king,” said the court opinion.

The plaintiff’s attorney Vladimir Khesin insisted that even during the revolution is the law. In response to the words of Kozlovsky the angry crowd and the king’s favorite lawyer said that the court is not the place for “rumors and conversations from the street”.

“Mali do what it says on the crowd, he said. — The crowd and tells about the trip in a sealed train through Germany, and the German gold, brought into the house of my doveritelnyi. I just didn’t do it in court.”

The court ultimately decided the dispute in favor of Kshesinskaia. The Bolsheviks had a month to vacate the premises.

Millions from Germany

The decision of the court, as might be expected, was delayed. The Bolsheviks and their supporters actively resisted eviction, threatening to use weapons. They just had nowhere to go, and the headquarters in the city centre was very convenient. To solve the issue of the mansion had in the context of the overall political situation, which is getting closer to civil war.

By early July, the opposition of the radical left with the rest of the revolutionaries and the Provisional government was almost turned into an open armed conflict. In Petrograd walked demonstrators armed with Bolshevik slogans, which demanded transfer of power to the Soviets. The socialist-revolutionaries and the Mensheviks considered the demonstrations a counter-revolutionary.

The evening of 5 July in Petrograd profit called from the front reliable parts, who supported the authorities. Also was published the message about the relations of Lenin with Germany, which influenced public opinion and the mood of the majority of military units. The situation has changed in favor of the Provisional government.

For the eviction of the Bolsheviks, the mansion of Kschessinska was a significant military power: eight armored vehicles, soldiers, machine gun team and two guns. On the morning of 6 July, party leaders of the RSDLP (b) in a hurry left the building, which immediately took a detachment of troops of the Provisional government.

“Broke into the building the soldiers committed in the premises of the Bolshevik organizations complete defeat,” write the authors of the book “Around Winter”. The rioters were not only ideological considerations — many of the soldiers believed the rumors that Germany generously funded the Bolsheviks, and was hoping to find in the mansion, “the German millions.”

Hat of comrade Lenin

In the book “Around Winter” are the memories of captain Ivan Mischenko — head of the machine gun team of the 1st samokatnaya battalion of the 1st cavalry corps of the Northern front. The manuscript of his memoirs was found in the state Archives.

Mishchenko participated in the occupation of the building and some time thereafter, was its commandant. Apparently, the house had already been abandoned by the Bolsheviks, when the captain with the soldiers was inside.

“The house was a complete jumble,” wrote he. Around the house was covered in cigarette butts, leftover food, empty bottles from under cognac, upholstery and curtains were torn, chairs and sofas — broken. In the rooms of the lower floor in a heap were stacked beds, mattresses, books, tables, broken figurines, clothing.

“In the winter garden, as you can see, someone was practicing with his sword in the wheelhouse, so from expensive tropical plants leaving only one of the stems. Wonderful bathroom Madame Kschessinska was turned into a cesspool at the bottom of the pool contained all sorts of items, from cigarette butts to human excrement,” wrote Mishchenko in his memoirs.

The next day in the presence of the Commission from the Provisional government at the mansion was broken in to two rooms, the keys of which the Bolsheviks have taken with them. They found a correspondence of the RSDLP (b).

“When the Commission questioned the janitor… he is the witness and saw the hat, said hat is of comrade Lenin. The Commission met a few days, recalled the captain. — Once, a volunteer, a member of the Commission, I said, “Yes, what a pity that we have so long nursed by the Bolsheviks. See. Because they are already in their hands took all of Russia, from Lenin’s correspondence shows that they have in this direction is already done.”

After the eviction of the Bolsheviks Mathilde Kschessinska was unable to return to his house, because this time it was occupied by the soldiers of the 1st battalion samokatnaya, which freed the building. They evicted the no hurry.

Attorney Khesin continued to file lawsuits in the courts, but ballerina realized that waiting is useless. July 13, 1917, she left Petrograd and went to Kislovodsk, where she was waiting for Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich. In February 1920 she left Russia. Kschessinska died in 1971 in Paris, did not live a few months before the 100th anniversary.

Mansion of the ballerina after the October events of 1917 came under the control of the Petrograd Soviet. Subsequently, it served as “the Area of Ilyich,” Society of old Bolsheviks, the Museum of the great October socialist revolution. After the collapse of the USSR in the house opened the State Museum of political history of Russia.

Sergey Kozlovsky

Russian service Bi-bi-si