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Revolutionary Riga's Ultimatum

V. I. Lenin

The German newspapers, which usually devote much attention to events in the Baltic provinces, have reported the following instructive fact. Things are happening at the Riga Polytechnic, as they are at all other higher educational institutions: student assemblies have turned into political meetings. The students are organising into a combatant force of the revolution. The liberal bigwigs are turning up their noses and muttering under their breath about the weakness of the government. But in Livonia, things have gone so hard with the landed gentry that they have energetically set about organising armed protection for their estates, with out relying on the government, which cannot do anything with the peasants, or the workers, or the students. The Baltic barons are organising civil war in earnest: they are hiring whole squads, arming them with good magazine rifles, and posting them about their extensive estates. And now it turns out that part of the members of the German student corporations in the Baltic provinces have joined such squads! Naturally, the Lettish and Russian students have not only proclaimed a boycott against these Black Hundreds in student uniform, but have even appointed a special commission to investigate the participation of students in the landlord Black-Hundred bands. Two members of this commission were sent into the countryside to gather information from the peasants. Both were arrested by the government and sent to prison in Riga.

The Lettish and Russian students then rose. They called a huge meeting which passed a vigorous resolution. The head of the Polytechnic, who had been invited to attend, was called upon to take immediate measures to secure the release of the arrested. The resolution ended with a direct ultimatum: if within three days the arrested persons were not released at the time fixed, the students, with the aid of the Riga workers, would use every means in their power to effect that release.

The Governor was away from Riga at the time, for he had gone to St. Petersburg to obtain the powers of Governor General. The acting Governor funked, and diplomatically wriggled out of the situation. He summoned (so the Vossische Zeitung of October 20, N. S., reports) the head of the Polytechnic and the two arrested students, and asked the latter whether they were aware that their actions were unlawful. They, of course, replied that they saw nothing unlawful in them. The acting Governor, a Riga newspaper is said to have stated, then urged them to refrain from such unlawful acts, and—set both free.

"In the eyes of the students," the correspondent, who feels for the Baltic barons, gloomily adds, "and in the eyes of the masses who stand behind them, the government has bowed to the ultimatum. And even a non-partisan must have gained the same impression."

Published: Proletary, No. 23, October 31 (18), 1905.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 9, pages 408-409.
Translated: The Late Abraham Fineberg and Julius Katzer

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