On March 16, 1918, the Extraordinary Fourth All-Russian Congress of Soviets officially moved the capital of the RSFSR from Petrograd to Moscow. According to historians, this decision was successful, since Petrograd was too close to the border and was exposed to a military threat, and Moscow had an optimal system of transport links with other regions of the country.

The idea of migration

Moscow, which for centuries was the main political center of the Russian state, lost its capital status in 1712 at the behest of Emperor Peter I. The capital was moved to St. Petersburg, built by the tsar on the lands conquered from Sweden. Shortly after the death of the first Russian emperor, the country's political center nearly returned to Moscow. In 1728, the court of Peter II moved there, but the young emperor soon died, and the new Tsarina Anna Ioannovna returned the political center of Russia to the city on the Neva.

In 1812, against the background of the Napoleonic invasion, Alexander I considered the possibility of moving government offices from St. Petersburg to Kazan, but due to the successful actions of the Russian army, there was no need for this.

According to historians, the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II was very fond of Moscow, and whether he intended to move the capital is unknown, but before the outbreak of the First World War, he ordered to start sending valuables to Moscow, including imperial regalia.

"At the beginning of the twentieth century, the idea of moving the capital of the empire to Moscow appealed to traditionalists-soil scientists," said Dmitry Churakov, a professor at MPGU, in an interview with RT.

In 1917, members of the Provisional Government seriously thought about moving to Moscow, but they did not have time to implement this idea in practice.

The issue of moving the capital became sharply relevant soon after the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia.

"For the transfer of the capital from Petrograd to Moscow, there was a whole complex of prerequisites. First, the complex international situation and the military danger. Petrograd was only a few dozen kilometers from the border with Finland, where the White Finns had strong positions. In addition, there was a real danger of German troops reaching Petrograd. Secondly, due to logistical problems in the city, the food situation became sharply complicated, and this, in turn, provoked social instability. Thirdly, a very difficult criminal situation has developed in Petrograd, "explained Vitaly Zakharov, a professor at MPGU, in an interview with RT.

  • Soviet party and statesman Vladimir Dmitrievich Bonch-Bruevich
  • RIA Novosti

According to historians, the exact date when the leader of the Bolsheviks, Vladimir Lenin, decided to transfer the bodies of republican power to Moscow is unknown. Practical preparations for the move unfolded in early March 1918.

Organizational issues related to the transfer of Soviet authorities to Moscow were entrusted to the manager of the affairs of the Council of People's Commissars Vladimir Bonch-Bruevich. The move was prepared in the strictest secrecy.

"Continuity of state development"

To send the government staff, Bonch-Bruevich chose the Tsvetochnaya station site, located on the connecting factory track behind the Moscow outpost. Usually it was used to rebuild freight cars and was not supposed to attract the attention of persons who posed a potential danger to the leadership of the RSFSR.

Bonch-Bruevich, through a trusted person in the Executive Committee of the Railway, secretly received four compartment cars and drove them to Tsvetochnaya. In them, he organized the delivery of Sovnarkom documentation.

In the government composition, 92 people were supposed to go with guards - Latvian riflemen armed with machine guns. The train crew was selected from people loyal to the new government who knew how to keep secrets.

On March 9, two courier trains were prepared on the side tracks of the Mykolaiv railway station, designed to move police officers who were not included in the lists of transportation by government personnel.

On March 10, the newspaper Izvestia reported that Sovnarkom was allegedly planning to move to Moscow the next day in the evening. It was deliberate misinformation, and it worked. As it became known later, on March 11, the opponents of the Bolsheviks prepared an explosion at the Obukhovo station.

On the evening of March 10, Lenin, together with his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, sister Maria and Bonch-Bruevich, went by car from Smolny to the Tsvetochnaya station site. Departure of train number 4001 was scheduled for 22 hours.

  • Tsvetochnaya Station
  • © Canes / Wikimedia Commons

The train in which Lenin was traveling followed to Moscow between two courier trains carrying employees of the commissariats. Despite all the precautions, an emergency situation soon arose. In front of the government train, a freight train with cars equipped with beds turned out from one of the side tracks. On it Petrograd left the sailors who left the service without permission. According to historians, anarchist sentiment reigned among these sailors, and they were well armed.

Bonch-Bruevich telegraphed the order to the head of the Malaya Vishera station to detain the train with the sailors and drive it into a dead end. As Ilya Ratkovsky, associate professor at St Petersburg University, noted in a conversation with RT, there are discrepancies in the description of further events. According to bonch-Bruevich's memoirs, the situation was resolved peacefully. However, there are also memories of railway workers who claim that armed sailors learned about the approach of the Sovnarkom train and planned to attack it. And only after a tough rebuff from the station staff and Latvian riflemen, who rolled out machine guns on the platform, the sailors laid down their weapons.

The government train arrived in Moscow on the morning of March 11. Employees of state institutions quickly found housing and organized meals. Lenin and his wife temporarily settled in the National Hotel.

  • Pervomaisky subbotnik on the territory of the Moscow Kremlin, 1918
  • RIA Novosti

According to historians, the Bolsheviks considered several options for the location of the government, but eventually settled on the Kremlin.

"From now on, Moscow is the capital of Soviet Russia. Where old Russia once asserted its greatness, young and new Russia is raising its head. Moscow and St. Petersburg throughout Russia. The continuity of our state development has not been interrupted. This is still the same Rus that gave a signal for the worldwide emancipation of workers, "Izvestia VTsIK wrote after the Sovnarkom moved to Moscow.

On March 16, 1918, the Fourth All-Russian Congress of Soviets officially adopted a resolution on the transfer of the capital of the RSFSR from Petrograd to Moscow.

  • Cabinet of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin in the Kremlin
  • RIA Novosti
  • © David Sholomovich

"In the context of the crisis that the Russian Revolution is experiencing at the moment, the position of Petrograd as the capital has changed dramatically. In view of this, the congress decides that until these conditions are changed, the capital of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic will be temporarily transferred from Petrograd to Moscow," the document said.

On March 19, Lenin began working in his Kremlin office. According to Dmitry Churakov, the move dramatically simplified the management of the economic infrastructure located in Moscow and its district, as well as the country as a whole, since the city had a much more convenient transport interchange than Petrograd.

As historians note, for several years Moscow was formally considered a temporary capital. And only in December 1922, after the signing of the treaty on the creation of the USSR, it received the capital status on a permanent basis.

"The move removed the threat of direct occupation of the capital, stabilized the position of Soviet power, improved the communication of the future capital with the Russian regions. The latter circumstance played an important role in the Civil War. Without the relocation of the Soviet government, and then the transfer of the capital to Moscow, the victory in the Civil War would have been in question, "Ilya Ratkovsky summed up.