Feb. - Oct. 1917
As a result of the February revolution, dual power was established in Petrograd. The city was ruled by the Provisional Government and the City Duma (subordinated to it) and, simultaneously, by the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. During the street riots in February, the district court building on Liteiny Avenue and several police stations were burned down, and the pre-trial prison (Lithuanian castle) was destroyed. The victims, among them a number of policemen, were solemnly buried in the Field of Mars. The Provisional Government occupied the Winter Palace, while the Petrograd Soviet and all socialist parties had their headquarters in the Smolny Institute building which before the revolution had housed the Institute of Noble Young Ladies.
The February revolution began with riots caused by food shortages. However, the new authorities could not radically change the situation. Food was still rationed and prices for it kept rising. Municipal facilities were falling into decay. The operation of public transport was becoming worse. More than a few soldiers deserted their units and profiteered in the streets. The black market flourished. Streets were barely cleaned. Piles of sunflower seed husks made the northern capital look like a provincial city. At the same time, theaters and cinemas were filled in the evenings. Prohibited at the beginning of the war, alcohol was available in various cafes and restaurants in mineral water bottles and teakettles.
The first days following the overthrow of the autocracy saw large and continuous political meetings at which orators from different parties spoke. In general, for many months meetings and demonstrations became a distinctive feature of revolutionary Petrograd. From April 1917 until the July events the Bolshevik party had its headquarters in the mansion of well-known ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya, which had been occupied by revolutionaries. The Bolsheviks had not yet achieved a majority in the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, but carried out active agitation in factory committees, garrison units and especially within the fleet. The working-class areas of the city, primarily the outskirts and suburbs, were taken over by extreme leftist parties.
The situation in the capital became considerably aggravated during the fall of 1917, with shortages of fuel and raw materials, and a decline in labor productivity and living conditions. Many aristocrats left their mansions and headed for the south; the most farsighted went abroad. Congresses, conferences and meetings no longer attracted public attention. People stopped responding to democratic slogans. Tens of thousands of soldiers from the garrison did not want to go to the front, and disobeyed their commanders. Having achieved a majority in the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, the Bolsheviks took over the district soviets, the garrison and the fleet. The Red Guards created by them openly prepared for an armed coup.
Police station building burnt in February 1917