The Storming of the Winter Palace
The Storming of the Winter Palace was a 1920 mass spectacle
In general, spectacle refers to an event that is memorable for the appearance it creates. Derived in Middle English from c. 1340 as "specially prepared or arranged display" it was borrowed from Old French spectacle, itself a reflection of the Latin spectaculum "a show" from spectare "to view,...

, based on historical events that took place in Petrograd
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

 during the 1917 October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...


Taking place on the third anniversary of the revolution, it was directed by Nikolai Evreinov
Nikolai Evreinov
Nikolai Nikolayevich Evreinov was a Russian director, dramatist and theatre practitioner associated with Russian Symbolism.- Life :The son of a French woman and a Russian engineer, Evreinov developed a keen interest in theatre from an early age, penning his first play at the age of 7. Six years...

 and was subtitled a "mass action." The sets were designed by Yuri Annenkov
Yuri Annenkov
Yury Pavlovich Annenkov ; in Petropavlovsk, Russian Empire – 12 July 1974 in Paris, France), was a Russian artist mostly known for his book illustrations and portraits. He also worked for theatre and cinema...

. The spectacle was staged outside the former Tsarist Winter Palace
Winter Palace
The Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, was, from 1732 to 1917, the official residence of the Russian monarchs. Situated between the Palace Embankment and the Palace Square, adjacent to the site of Peter the Great's original Winter Palace, the present and fourth Winter Palace was built and...

 where the Provisional Government
Russian Provisional Government
The Russian Provisional Government was the short-lived administrative body which sought to govern Russia immediately following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II . On September 14, the State Duma of the Russian Empire was officially dissolved by the newly created Directorate, and the country was...

 was meeting at the time of the Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 coup. Its performers included 125 ballet dancers, 100 circus people, 1,750 supernumeraries and students, 200 women, 260 secondary actors, and 150 assistants. There were also tanks and armoured cars involved.

The mass spectacle form took the pre-revolutionary Symbolist
Russian Symbolism
Russian symbolism was an intellectual and artistic movement predominant at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. It represented the Russian branch of the symbolist movement in European art, and was mostly known for its contributions to Russian poetry.-Russian symbolism in...

 utopias of "ritual theatre" (whose formulation was largely a response to the abortive 1905 revolution), and recast their "people" as the proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

. Performed on 7 November before 100,000 spectators, the action begins with the February Revolution
February Revolution
The February Revolution of 1917 was the first of two revolutions in Russia in 1917. Centered around the then capital Petrograd in March . Its immediate result was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire...

, follows the gradual organization of the workers (on a red stage
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 to the left, with Kerensky
Alexander Kerensky
Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky was a major political leader before and during the Russian Revolutions of 1917.Kerensky served as the second Prime Minister of the Russian Provisional Government until Vladimir Lenin was elected by the All-Russian Congress of Soviets following the October Revolution...

 and the Provisional Government on a white stage
White movement
The White movement and its military arm the White Army - known as the White Guard or the Whites - was a loose confederation of Anti-Communist forces.The movement comprised one of the politico-military Russian forces who fought...

 to the right), until they are illuminated fully by searchlights, and crying "Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

, Lenin" charge over the arch which joins the two stages to do battle with the "Whites." Kerensky leaps to a car for an escape, and is pursued along a path between the two large groups of spectators by trucks full of the Red Guard waving bayonets, to the Palace. Silhouettes struggle in the windows of the Palace, until the Red Army is finally successful, and red lights flash out. A cannon fired from the battleship Aurora and fireworks herald the victory of the October Revolution.


  • Kleberg, Lars. 1980. Theatre as Action: Soviet Russian Avant-Garde Aesthetics. Trans. Charles Rougle. New Directions in Theatre ser. London: Macmillan, 1993. ISBN 0333568176.
  • von Geldern, James. 1993. Bolshevik Festivals, 1917–1920. Berkeley: U of California P. ISBN 0520076907. Available online here.
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