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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

March 8 Is Also 'Petrograd Hunger Riots Day'




Editor's note: March 8 is more than just International Women's Day. It was also the date when Russia's 1917 February Revolution began with rioting and strikes in St. Petersburg. What follows is the account of those events as they appeared in The New York Times, under the headline "Hunger Causes Petrograd Riots." Smaller headlines below continued, "Military Chief Orders Troops to Use Arms Against Demonstrators f Cars Stopped," "CRISIS BLAMED ON BLIZZARD" and "Whole Question of Supply Put in Hands of Municipalities and Zemstvos."


The article was a reprinted dispatch to the London Daily News and did not have a byline. An abbreviated version is offered here as it appeared 82 years ago, without editing for spelling or style.


PETROGRAD, Russia (March 9, 1917) f A number of causes, working together, brought the crisis momentarily to a head, although I do not personally believe there can be serious trouble while the Duma is sitting.


A number of baker shops were destroyed, and at others crowds seized bread from those who succeeded in buying it. A crowd last night broke the windows of a factory because its workers refused to strike.


The methods of the Cossacks, as I saw them this afternoon, are to make a cordon with their horses at opposite ends of the streets. Meanwhile, other troops ride through the crowd. The feeling of the people is not hostile to the Cossacks. For the most part the crowds are good tempered, and there is still hope that serious conflict will be avoided.


The general character of the excitement is vague. Throughout yesterday [March 8] the streets were full of people, although Petrograd is heavily patrolled by Cossacks and mounted police; most of the crowd, including many women, were out to watch other people make trouble. The general atmosphere of excitement is like a bank holiday with thunder in the air. ? The crowds often cheered the soldiers, thus giving the lie to those who tried to pretend they were hostile to the war. Both the "Marseillaise" and the national anthem were sung. At night the whole town was quiet.


Editor's note: The article then picks up with a second dispatch from Petrograd dated March 11, 1917:


The question of the food supply of the capital of Russia has reached a crisis. Petrograd is particularly badly situated on the confines of the empire, in a region incapable of producing breadstuffs, and therefore wholly dependent upon railways for the necessaries of daily life. Military needs necessarily absorb the greater part of railway activity, and the war traffic naturally tends to increase rather than diminish as time goes on. The people have cheerfully endured every manner of inconvenience throughout the long Winter in obtaining food supplies. Latterly, however, there has been witnessed the phenomenon of shortage in certain quarters of the city of the staple food of the common people, namely, the favorite Russian black bread.


When the Duma opened, the Minister of Agriculture, Rittich, brought this all important question of food supplies before the members. The Duma, however, seemed indisposed to devote too much time to the consideration of such a vital practical matter, and preferred to listen to speeches on the so-called political situation, of which the alleged mismanagement of Russia's inexhaustible food supplies is regarded as only a part. The Duma put in only five days' sittings since it opened, and a great part of these has been spent on speeches expressive of the general dissatisfaction with the Government without leading to any


practical results.


On Thursday a number of women and younger men of the working classes made a peaceful demonstration of protest against the mismanagement of the food supplies. A similar movement was noticed in certain quarters of the city yesterday. Last night an extraordinary meeting was summoned of ministers, Representatives of both legislative chambers, the municipality, and other public bodies to discuss measures to allay public alarm.


From speeches made in the Duma this morning, it is clear there never has been any real shortage in Petrograd, although a heavy blizzard in South Russia, extending over weeks, interfered with the regular arrival of supplies from the grain-growing districts. The people, owing to the prevalence of pernicious rumors, appear to have been collecting stores of foodstuffs in advance, thereby causing a certain shortage, inasmuch as the food controller continued to issue only normal quantities. The extraordinary meeting last night decided in principle to hand over the whole question of food supply to the public self-governing bodies, the municipalities, and the Zemstvos.


Certain speeches in the Duma this morning pretty plainly indicate that a political object is at the bottom of the panicky state of mind which was recently created in Petrograd on the subject of the food supply.