[Lenin’s] response, formalized soon after [his return from exile] was that the Bolsheviks would support the Provisional Government “as a noose supports a dying criminal.”
The Age of Utopia: Christendom from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution, by John Strickland
NB: As you read this, consider inserting today’s west, especially the United States, in the story – replacing what the Russian communists would do with what is happening today in America. I know it is a bit of a tired comparison, but it comes out well in this story – the attempt at creating utopia via creation of a new man.
After two years of war, the Russian government was brought to its knees. Setback after setback was ascribed to the Russian army, with a speech in the Duma concluding with the rhetorical question: “Is this stupidity, or is this treason?”
On February 28, 1917, Tsar Nicolas II would abdicate the throne. A Provisional Government was established, but it had no credibility; Russia must continue fighting in the war! This is not what the people wanted to hear. In any case, soon enough other parties would claw for power.
In April, Lenin would return. By October, with the help of Trotsky and Stalin, he would arrange the arrest of those in government. All power had passed into the hands of the soviets – the councils. In reality, power passed to Lenin and his supporters. When objections to this were raised, Trotsky would shout them down – you have played your role, get out, you worthless individuals.
Utopia was promised, with the complete dismissal, even attempted erasure, of Christianity. The Russian Revolution brought this long sweep of history to its climax:
It was the outcome of an age in which indignation, once regulated by humility and subjected to sacrificial love, became completely untethered to any greater virtues.
Per Marx, Christianity was an instrument of oppression. As long as religion existed in society, it was a sign that class oppression existed. For this reason, the Orthodox were seen as enemies just as the bourgeoisie were seen as enemies.
Numerous martyrdoms are recounted by Strickland. Thousands of clergy and an uncountable number of laity were put to death. One story stands out, that of Grand Duchess Elizabeth. Born in Germany, she was the daughter of a Lutheran prince. She would marry into the Russian royal family, and though it was not required, she converted to Orthodoxy.
In 1905, her husband was killed in the uprisings of that year. Yet, she visited the killer in jail, imploring him to repent. Elizabeth would thereafter give away much of her wealth and build a monastery in which she would spend the rest of her life, where she would spend her time in prayer and care for the poor.
1n 1918, the Communists came for her. Besides her royal ties and German ancestry, her compassion for the poor was seen as a challenge to the communists’ goals. Sent east, past the Ural Mountains, she, along with others, was cast down an abandoned mineshaft. When many survived the fall, a hand grenade was dropped to the bottom, ending all cries.
Supposedly fought for the benefit of the common man, these Soviet leaders didn’t care at all about individual common men. They spoke in the abstract of the proletariat, but would walk past them without note, or would lump them together with the bourgeoisie if they happened to disagree with Lenin in the slightest.