The February Revolution in Petrograd: How Do These Places from Old Photos Look Now

Two revolutions took place in Russia in 1917. The epicenter was the capital, Petrograd, as St. Petersburg was called during World War I. Let’s take a trip back in time, trace the revolutionary events on the streets of the city and see what these places look like now.

The material was prepared and translated from Russian by Nikita Andreyev, author of the «History on the Ground» blog.

All dates are according to the modern calendar. Photo:, Yandex.Maps.

The author is not a historian, so he relies on simple publicly available information from the first shelf of the Internet. Inaccuracies are possible.

Bread Riots and Worker Strikes

In the winter of 1917, the food shortages in the cities worsened against the backdrop of the protracted war against Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey. Bread ration cards were introduced in Moscow, Kiev, and other cities. It was expected to extend this action to the capital. On March 6, 1917 angry citizens began smashing grocery stores and bakeries, demanding bread.

Food Queue, early 1917
This is the corner of Kirochnaya Street and Vosstaniya Street near Chernyshevskaya metro station

The next day, Emperor Nicholas II goes to Mogilev to the Supreme Command headquarters. On March 8, anti-war meetings in Petrograd degenerated into strikes and riots. The epicenter of events: the Vyborg embankment, Lesnoy Prospekt, Liteiny Bridge and Liteiny Prospekt.

According to the Julian calendar it was the end of February, so the revolution was called the February Revolution.

On March 9, a general strike began. It was joined by Vasilievsky Island, including students. The police are losing control of the situation.

The military are opening the bridges over the Neva, but people are walking to the center right on the ice. Along Nevsky Prospekt all the way to Znamenskaya Square, there are clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement, including shooting and casualties. Today we know Znamenskaya Square as Vosstaniya Square.

Linguistic Note: 

  • Kirochnaya Street = Lutheran Church Street 
  • Vosstaniya Street and Square = Rebellion Street and Square
  • Lesnoy Prospekt = Forest Avenue
  • Liteiny Bridge and Prospekt = Foundry Bridge and Avenue
  • Vasilievsky Island = Basil Island
  • Nevsky Prospekt = Neva Avenue
  • Znamenskaya Square = Our Lady of the Sign Square

Soldier Rebellion

The government responded to the unrest with arrests and shootings, but this was not enough. On March 12, reservists of the Volyn Regiment launched an armed mutiny. Their barracks were in the block between Vilensky Lane and Paradnaya Street.

Here they are, the soldiers of the revolution
This was taken on Liteyny Prospect, not far from Zhukovsky St.

Several neighboring military units joined the uprising. Armed soldiers marched on Liteiny Prospect and joined the striking workers of the military factories. The crowd freed prisoners from prisons and burned down the District Court building on Shpalernaya Street.

Burned down the building of the District Court and the pre-trial detention center
In the late 1920s, the building regained its historical functions: it housed the Investigative Prison of the Leningrad OGPU-NKVD-MGB-KGB Directorate. Now it is a pre-trial detention center and the FSB. That’s what historical traditions mean
District Court, view from Liteyny Prospect
The OGPU building, popularly known as the Big House, was built on the site of the District Court in 1932. The project was designed by the inmates of the sharashka in the neighboring building
Burned down police station on Tverskaya Street
The old building survived until 1979, and then a residential house was built in its place for senior officials of the Leningrad Regional Committee of the CPSU
Arrest of a policeman near the barracks and manege of the Cavalergard Regiment
Now it is Zakharievskaya Street
The burned building of the 1st police station of the Moscow section
On this place now stands a modern building on the corner of Stremyannaya Street and Povarsky Lane
Soldiers flooded the streets of Petrograd
Now it is the corner of Zakharievskaya Street and Chernyshevsky Prospect
Meanwhile, on Spalernaya Street
The building on the right is well recognized — the Courtyard Carriage Yard at the end of the 18th century
Burned down Lithuanian prison castle
The prison was here, at the crossroads of the waterways, opposite New Holland

People crossed to the Vyborg side over Liteiny Bridge and joined at the Finland Station with local workers who came from Bolshoy Sampsonievsky and Bezborodkinsky (now Kondratyevsky) avenues.

Finland Station in 1917 looked a little different than it does now
Anticipating your question: Lenin spoke on an armored car here, but later in April. The details of this speech remain the subject of historical debate

The crowd of workers crossed the Bolshaya Nevka over the Grenadier Bridge and absorbed the soldiers of the Grenadier Regiment. Together with them, the demonstrators advanced along Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt, dislodged the outpost on Troitsky Bridge, and opened the way from the Petrograd side to the center of the city.

Meeting of soldiers in the barracks of the Grenadier Regiment
It’s on Chapaeva Street near Karpovka

At that time, the bulk of the demonstrators marched from the Finland Station to the «Crosses» along the Arsenalny Embankment and freed the prisoners, including the Socialist-Mensheviks.

Linguistic Note:

  • Vilensky Lane = Vilna Lane 
  • Paradnaya Street = Parade Street
  • Shpalernaya Street = Tapestry Street
  • Stremyannaya Street = Stirrup Street
  • Povarsky Lane = Cook Lane
  • Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt = Stone Island Avenue
  • Troitsky Bridge = Trinity Bridge
  • Karpovka River = Carp River

Change of government

The Mensheviks led the crowd to the Tauride Palace and occupied it. The State Duma of the Russian Empire met in the Tauride Palace. The Duma formed the Provisional Committee and led the revolution. In turn, the Social Democrats formed the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies (Petrosoviet).

First rally at the Tauride Palace
Another angle
Spalernaya Street near the Tauride Palace
How the city has turned green in 100 years
Arrests of supporters of Nicholas II in the State Duma
Arrested gendarmes in the Tauride Palace

At this time Colonel Kutepov’s detachment on Liteyny Prospect engaged the rebels. This was the only attempt by the tsarist troops to suppress the February Revolution. The most brutal fighting took place at the intersection of Liteyny Prospekt and Sergievskaya Street (now Tchaikovsky Street).

Barricades on Liteyny
The house is built on two floors, but it still reads well

On the next day, March 13, the rebels took the Peter and Paul Fortress and pointed their guns at the Admiralty, where a small number of Tsarist troops were entrenched. Under the threat of shelling, these troops moved to the Winter Palace and then went over to the side of the revolution. Petrograd was completely in the hands of the Provisional Committee, and the situation on the streets calmed down.

On March 14 the sailors of Kronstadt learned of the revolution and revolted. In Moscow, too, riots broke out. The situation finally spiraled out of control.

Abdication of the Tsar

On March 15, the Petrosoviet issued Order No. 1: soldiers were no longer subordinate to officers, but to elected commanders. Dual power was established in Petrograd: the Provisional Committee could only do things that did not conflict with the interests of the Petrosoviet. On the same day Nicholas II abdicated for himself and his son.

People read leaflets about the abdication of the Tsar
Removing the Emblem of the Russian Empire from the Voskresenskaya Pharmacy
Modern address: Chernyshevsky Prospekt, 11/57. Apparently, the house is superstructured
Citizens gather papers near the trashed police archives
This is 103, Griboyedov Canal Embankment

The Provisional Government then persuaded Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich to renounce his claim to the throne. Thus ended the Russian monarchy, although the official decision was postponed for six months, until general elections to the Constituent Assembly, which was to decide democratically the future of Russia.

A rally for women’s rights at the Tauride Palace, late March 1917. Note the beautiful house at the back
The water servants’ dwelling opposite the Tauride Palace acquired its present appearance sometime in the 1950s
Meanwhile, on Nevsky Prospect
What a contrast to modern hedonistic St. Petersburg
A typical meeting of the Petrosoviet at the Tauride Palace
Funeral for the victims of the revolution. In the armbands is the city’s militia
In this place the city is preserved almost unchanged
The same procession, but on Znamenskaya Square
The cathedral surprisingly «turned» into the vestibule of the metro «Ploshchad Vosstaniya»
Procession on Nevsky Prospect
This is the corner of Nevsky and Liteiny
Actually, the funeral itself was on the Champ de Mars
Soviet Memorial to the Fallen Fighters of the Revolution
The burning of imperial coats of arms at the Anichkov Palace
To be precise, it is the building of the Imperial Cabinet, which administered the estates of the royal family

Further events unfolded, but that’s another story.


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