The Russian Revolution began on 22 February, 1917 (O.S.) as a direct consequence of the actions of workers leaders at the massive Putilov armaments factories in Petrograd. Portrayed as a spontaneous and leaderless uprising of the downtrodden and oppressed proletariat, it was nothing of the sort. Workers’ leaders at the Putilov munitions works and other major industrial concerns in Petrograd, were bribed to stir up industrial and civil unrest.

Putilov Factory meeting February 1917.

At the Putilov factories they led some 30,000 workers out on strike after an angry and bitter tirade against the management over low wages. In the following days, workers at other factories across the city were similarly stirred to action, and encouraged to strike in support of the Putilov workforce. On 22 February, management at the great armaments works locked the factory gates. Were they were forewarned of possible sabotage? It was widely known that 23 February was International Women’s Day and that tens of thousands of women, many of whom were war widows or the wives of soldiers who had been badly wounded at the front, would march in protest against the war.

The Putilov workforce joined the women on the streets along with 90,000 other workers. Mass crowds paraded through the city protesting about food shortages, calling for an end to war and the overthrow of the monarchy. The following day numbers on the streets rapidly snowballed. Shop windows were smashed and hungry protestors helped themselves to bread. The Petrograd police shot several protestors, but were themselves, completely overwhelmed.

Just before Petrograd ‘spontaneously’ erupted, the British ambassador, Sir George Buchanan took himself out of town, ‘safely withdrawn from the scene of a tumult that he had contributed to kindle’. [1] It was an old ruse. Czar Nicholas II was some 500 miles away in Belarus in his role as Commander-in-Chief of the army. On 25 February, around thirty of the workers leaders met at the Petrograd Union of Workers Co-operative to set up a Soviet. On Sunday 26th, the Czar ordered a military crackdown. Forty, perhaps fifty, protestors were shot on the streets by troops from the city garrison, but there were increasing reports of desertion as disillusioned troops joined forces with the demonstrators.

Woman's Day Protests February 1917.

The President of the Duma, Mikhail Rodzianko, sent urgent telegrams to the Czar. On 26 February, he warned of the seriousness of a situation which the government was incapable of suppressing: ‘The government is paralysed; the transport service has broken down; the food and fuel supplies are completely disorganised. Discontent is general and on the increase. There is wild shooting in the streets; troops are firing at each other. It is urgent that someone enjoying the confidence of the country be entrusted with the formation of a new government. There must be no delay. Hesitation is fatal.’ [2]

With exasperation bordering on despair, Rodzianko, raised the level of anxiety in a second telegram on 27th February: ‘The situation is growing worse. Measures should be taken immediately as tomorrow will be too late. The last hour has struck, when the fate of the country and dynasty is being decided. The government is powerless to stop the disorders. The troops of the garrison cannot be relied upon. The reserve battalions of the Guard regiments are in the grips of rebellion, their officers are being killed. Having joined the mobs and the revolt of the people, they are marching on the offices of the Ministry of the Interior and the Imperial Duma. Your Majesty, do not delay. Should the agitation reach the Army, Germany will triumph and the destruction of Russia along with the dynasty is inevitable.’ [3] Nicholas read the telegram, made a derogatory comment about Rodzianko, and remained at the Front … for three short days.

The Czar's brother Grand Duke Michael who wisely rejected the poisoned chalice of Czardom.

On 2 March 1917, (O.S.) Czar Nicholas II abdicated, initially in favour of his 13 year-old haemophiliac son, Alexei, but quickly changed his mind to favour his brother. Grand Duke Michael declined. He was a realist. Whatever the truth, Lenin was said to have known that Michael had been in favour of the February revolution and ‘had even worn a red ribbon in his buttonhole’. [4] The Czar caved in without any meaningful fight and Romanov rule came to an abrupt end after 300 years. Received history recounts that he abdicated because he had lost the loyalty of his army, but was this put to the test? Though he announced that he would stand down in the interests of the military, he privately recorded in his diary that: ‘All around is betrayal, cowardice and deceit!’ [5] He meekly surrendered the imperial throne, yet Rodzianko had clearly stated that the mob was marching on the Duma, not the Czar. He still commanded the army. Rodzianko warned that ‘should the agitation reach the army’ Germany would win the war. The army in the field stood loyal. So who had betrayed and deceived the last Czar?

What had been whispered in his ear? What role had Alfred Milner played in the Czar’s decision to abdicate? What warnings or indeed assurances had been given during his private meetings with Nicholas II just weeks earlier? As we have shown, the evidence points to Milner’s certain knowledge of what was about to take place before he had even departed Russia, although, once home, he tried to cover his complicity by making a clear statement to the contrary for public consumption. Had Nicholas been promised sanctuary in Britain, as he had previously been promised Constantinople?


On Nicholas II’s abdication, a provisional government was immediately cobbled together. Most of the chosen ministers were liberals from the previous Duma with a sound basis of support from the middle classes. They sought to establish a capitalist democracy similar to Britain and, most importantly, supported Russia’s continuation in the war until Germany was defeated. Of all their actions this was the key to support from Britain, America and the other Allies. News of the revolution and abdication was greeted in London with satisfaction by Prime Minister Lloyd George. [6] Across the Atlantic President Woodrow Wilson, spoke to Congress about ‘those marvellous and comforting events’ in Russia, where ‘autocracy’ had finally been struck down. [7] Did the Czar ever ponder that while he had talked about making peace with Germany he had been replaced with a government which promised to continue the war; the unpopular war; the debilitating war?

The speed with which the British government distanced itself from the Czar might be considered breathtaking, unless of course you are aware that the Secret Elite had sanctioned his removal. They were advised and updated by ambassador Sir George Buchanan and Sir John Hanbury-Williams [8] head of the British military mission to Russia. Both men represented the Secret Elite’s interests.

Milner (centre) seated with his military command in South Africa. Lord Roberts to his left and Sir John Hanbury-Williams at his right hand. Buchanan was a foreign office fixture and Hanbury-Williams’s connection with Alfred Milner dated back to the Boer War where he served as Milner’s right-hand man and Military Aide de Camp. The British War Cabinet decided to present a resolution to parliament ‘sending paternal greetings to the Duma, heartfelt congratulations to the Russian people’ and praise for their ‘renewed steadfastness and vigour [in] the prosecution of the war against the autocratic militarism which threatens the liberty of Europe.’ [9] What? Was irony dead? For whose consumption was the notion that the Russian people, who had been subjugated to Czarist autocratic militarism for three centuries, wanted to continue the war against the alleged autocratic German militarism reputedly threatening Europe? These Secret Elite agents were shameless. They not only abandoned the Czar without hesitation, but instructed Hanbury-Williams to stay away from him or any member of the royal family so that Britain’s good relations with the Provisional government would be seen as more important.

Discussion on the Czar’s future concluded with the decision that ‘they were in doubt as to whether Great Britain was the right place for him to go.’ [10] He had been deeply unpopular in Britain before 1914, despised by the Jewish communities, the socialist and trades union organisations and fair minded liberals. Others questioned the advisability of the Czar seeking refuge in any neutral country where he could become the centre of intrigue, so the War Cabinet changed its mind within 24 hours. [11] In theory the Imperial Royal family might have found refuge in Britain. He never did. But consider what really mattered to the British Elite. The Czar was instantly abandoned and no more mention was made of promises like Constantinople, false or otherwise. Both were filed in the past tense. Gone.

Prince George Lvov, with whom Alfred Milner had spoken some weeks earlier, was named as the first post-imperial prime minister of the provisional government. Co-incidence? Hardly likely. Alexander Kerensky, a Menshevik, was appointed minister of war and navy. The new government, plagued with factional infighting and competition for authority, underwent several changes over the following months. The Bolsheviks had little influence on the seismic events of February/March 1917 or the new government. They were a tiny faction which had effectively been neutered by the enforced exile of their key leaders. The Mensheviks, if anything, fared worse. They ‘almost entirely disintegrated and became indistinguishable from other ‘progressives’, combining a patriotic attitude towards the war with a demand for ‘democratic’ reforms.’ [12] But the provisional government served its purpose for the interim period. The bankers and financiers from Wall Street circled above a fatally wounded Russian bear, salivating at the prospects of wondrous profits to come.

1. Guido Preparata, Conjuring Hitler, p. 29.
3. Ibid.
4. Dimitri Volkogonov, Lenin, Life and Legacy, p. 106.
6. Preparata, Conjuring Hitler, p. 29.
7. Ibid.
8. National Archives FO telegram 514, dated 19 March 1915, and the reply FO telegram 514 dated 20 March 1917.
9. CAB/23/2 WC 100, 21 March 1917. p. 4.
10. Ibid., p. 5.
11. CAB 23/40/2, WC 101. 22 March,1917.
12. E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, p. 67.