Voline, The Unknown Revolution, 1917-1921 (1947)

Book Three
Struggle for the Real Social Revolution


Geographical Notes

Kronstadt is a fortress, or rather, a fortified city, built two centuries ago on the Island of Kotlin, 30 kilometres west of St. Petersburg (now Leningrad) at the lower end of the Gulf of Finland. It defends the approaches from the Baltic Sea to the former capital, and is also the principal base of the Russian Baltic Fleet. The Gulf of Finland is frozen in winter, and communication between Kronstadt and Leningrad is carried on, for five months of the year (from November to April), over a snow road on top of the thick ice of the Gulf.

Kotlin Island -- a narrow, elongated piece of land with very irregular contours -- is 12 kilometres long. Its greatest width is from 2 to 3 kilometres. Its coasts are inaccessible and well fortified. The eastern part of the island, which faces Leningrad, contains the city of Kronstadt, the port and the docks, and occupies about a third of the total area. The north, west and south coasts are strewn with forts and bastions. Between these coasts and the city, at the time of the 1917 Revolution, the terrain was virtually desert.

To the north and south, the island is surrounded by many forts and batteries, projecting fairly far into the sea. On a point of the mainland, twenty kilometres away by sea and facing the island, there is the important fort of Krasnaia Gorka. On the other coast, facing the north shore of the island and ten kilometres away by sea, is the fortified cape called Lissy Noss.

Inside the city, the most noteworthy feature is the immense Anchor Square. Capable of holding up to 30,000 people, this square was formerly used for training conscripts and for military reviews. During the Revolution it became a regular popular forum. Whenever summoned, and at the slightest alarm, the sailors, soldiers and workers would rush there to hold monster meetings. During the winter, the same role was filled by the vast "maritime riding school."

The population of Kronstadt comprised, first, the crews of the Baltic Fleet, quartered in vast barracks, then the soldiers of the garrison, mainly artillerymen, and, finally, many officers, officials merchants, skilled workers, etc., in all some 50,000 inhabitants.