1. Averting the revolutions. Both the February/March1 and October/November revolutions have different causes and factors. They need to be looked at separately. The first revolution was (loosely) the popular overthrow of a unpopular, incompetent autocrat by The Will of The People while the second was a decapitation of the weak central government by a well organised and led minority, the Bolsheviks.
Stopping both revolutions means making significant changes in Russia much earlier. Preventing the outbreak of the Great War in '14 will not (IMO) stop the revolution; the Imperial government was autocratic and incompetent and there was massive scale unrest (first seven months of 1914 saw 3,493 strikes involving 1,327,897 participants and hundreds of deaths2). Nicholas's incoherent and incompetent mix of liberalising and repressing was the worst option for the situation.
2. The Brusilov Bombing. Kill Aleksei Bursilov and Nicholas II in 1916. Covered here.
3. The Assassination of Comrade Ulyanov. On 30AUG1918 Lenin travelled to southern Moscow to speak at the Hammer and Sickle arms factory. As he left the building late in the evening and walked to his car a woman named Fanny Kaplan called out to him. When Lenin turned towards her she fired three shots from a Browning pistol (a similar model to that used four years earlier to Kill Franz Ferdinand). Two bullets hit Lenin; one punctured his left lung and embedded in his right collarbone, the second lodged in his left shoulder. Lenin didn't die, though his injuries would trouble him for his remaining six years.
At least that's one version of history. Was Kaplan (a Social Democrat and revolutionary whose party had been suppressed by the Bolsheviks) actually guilty? She was short-sighted and inexperienced with firearms. Despite being brutally interrogated by the Cheka secret police she didn't incriminate anyone else and was killed, and her body burned, on 04SEP. Was te assassination stage managed to improve the waning popularity of Lenin and the Bolsheviks? If so it helped in the short term, there was a considerable outpouring of sympathy. However the injuries (and Lenin was injured, sometime) did contribute to his ill-health and series of strokes. There are numerous oddities; allegations of poisoned bullets, that Kaplan wasn't wearing her glasses (and hence was effectively blind) at the time, suggestions that another SDP revolutionary, Lidia Konopleva, was the shooter and Kaplan a patsy, et cetera. Lenin's driver said he refused treatment3 and returned home, walking up three flights of stairs without problem, the Cheka officer who arrested Kaplan told several accounts of the arrest, et cetera.
The classic alternative here is Lenin is killed. Optionally there can be a revelation that he wasn't human....
4. The Brotherhood Church Business. See here. One way to change the revolution(s) is the massacre most of the leadership a decade earlier.
It's London, 1907. The seventeenth of May to be exact. Yesterday the Brotherhood Church on Southgate Road in Stepney was demolished by a huge explosion, initially thought to be a gas leak. However speculation is rife that it was a bombing of some sort, and there's a police investigation in progress. The Russian embassy has already issued a denial that the Tsarist secret police, the feared Okhrana, was behind the occurrence.
Why the Russians? The church housed the Fifth Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, and was packed with over three hundred delegates as well as onlookers. Most of them are now dead, killed in the blast, the collapse of the building and the fire. Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky are amongst the dead, along with Rosa Luxemburg and Maxim Gorky and a host of other leaders who never became household names.
5. Decisive Action. What if Tsar Nicholas has, out of character, acted decisively in the early stages of the February Revolution?
Loosely the 'active' revolution began on 22FEB1917Julian when engineering workers in Petrograd went on strike. The next day was International Women's Day and they were joined by thousands of female protesters, marching against food rationing. Each day more protestors and strikers took part and this grew to around a quarter-of-a-million people, all demanding and end to the war and the replacement of the Tsar. Within a week Petrograd was effectively shut down. Nicholas ordered General Sergey Khahalov, commander of the Petrograd garrison, to suppress the rioting by force, but the troops refused to fire on the crowds of civilians and many mutinied and joined the protesters. Having lost the support of the army Nicholas accepted the advice of ministers and generals and abdicated for himself and his son on 02MAR1917. When his brother, Grand Duke Mikhail, refused the throne the Tsarist regime was over.
What if Nicholas II had acted sooner? Say ordering the suppression of the demonstration on 22FEB? Would this have had much effect? Perhaps if the soldiers were infested with mind controlling nanotech and machine-gunned the civilians wholesale...
6. The Lives of Reilly. Murderer, spy, agent provocateur, arms dealer, forger, double-agent and so much more. "Sidney Reilly" was involved in the Revolutions, not least the "Lockhart Plot". This scheme, also called the Ambassadors' Plot, was (allegedly) an attempt to end the Bolshevik Government and assassinate Vladimir Lenin. Though it may have actually been a Soviet plot (with Reilly a Cheka double-agent). Or indeed a triple-layer scheme using the Bolsheviks to aid the plotters in decapitating the Bolsheviks...
It's just ripe for a spot of temporal meddling. Probably several players too.
The details are, to put it mildly, murky. Certainly Reilly and Lockhart4, in collusion with French and Amerrican diplomats, attempted to corrupt the Latvian Riflemen who guarded the Kremlin. The Entente powers hoped to collapse the Revolution and get Russia back into the Great War (the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which ended the war in Eastern Europe, was signed on 03MAR1918). However the coup fell apart and led to the ‘Red Terror’ with thousands of arrests (including a least three of Reilly’s mistresses). Lockhart was arrested and imprisoned, but released while Reilly escaped (in a German Embassy railway car; either a monumental bluff, an owed favour or another layer to the plot). Both men were sentenced to death in absentia. In Britain Reilly was awarded the Military Cross "for distinguished services rendered in connection with military operations in the field". More here.
7. Disaster Tourism. It's not every day you get to see an Emperor and his family killed. And as an appetiser there are numerous other massacres. The perfect draw for a group of emotionally jaded tourists from the far, far, future.
I've speculated about "disaster tourism" previously (specifically the films Thrill Seekers/The Time Shifters and Timescape/Grand Tour: Disaster in Time).
Of course the revolution period is likely to be a hazardous one for travellers who don't grokk the natives. People can go missing, secret police can become curious, drunken soldiers can get frisky, equipment can be lost5, looters an loot, people can get sick......
The the PCs turn up and complicate matters further. Do they notice the tourists (high tech emissions perhaps)? How do they react? How do the tourists react?
8. Games of War. There were, I assume, Russian Great War troops involved in the War Games. So might some of them have made it home with memories of the events? Or an acquired artefact or too? Maybe there was a team of junior War Lords, technicians, field researchers and guards, operating during the revolution (preparing for fresh 'acquisitions'?) when the Time Lords intervened to suppress their masters' plot. Stranded with a pre-programmed SIDRAT that can't return what do they do? Get involved and carve themselves an empire of course.
9. Historical Research Academics have many reasons to investigate the revolutions. Did Fanny Kaplan shoot Lenin? What was really going on around the Ambassadors' Plot? Or maybe someone wants to interview Lenin for a research paper (followed by hypnotic memory suppression of course). Record the debates around the Brest-Litovsk treaty. Take genetic samples from the Romanovs.
There are many reasons for historians as varied as a couple of ArcHivists, a sixth millennium Warrior Historian6, or Max Max and her colleagues from St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research. Preferably all of them, with different methods and objectives, stumbling over each other....
Bugging devices might be found, recon drones brought down by birds, ereaders dropped, pockets picked, rooms looted, people shot randomly. Now blend in paranoia and numerous local factions.
10. Hitch Hiking. What happens to ex time travellers7? Those who return home or try and make new lives but feel restless and want a second chance. They look for another time traveller of course.
Likewise those who're stranded, deliberately or accidentally, in the past (or future but the past is probably easier).
But how do you find a time traveller? They're usually discrete.
Use the Limelight Effect. Find a major event that would attract them and wait. Build up local contacts and keep your eyes open for strangers, you'll have a better idea than most what to look for. Possibly aided by a few bits of advanced technology. Then you can approach them and make your case. Or kill them and steam their time machine.
Is there someone stalking time travellers through the mean streets of revolutionary Petrograd and Moscow?
11. Human Resources. Lots of disruption during the revolutions. Anarchy, violence disappearances. An excellent time to hunt. Maybe it's a time (or just space) mobile Predator looking for a challenge. Or a scientist who needs chemicals easily obtained from the human body. Or a psychic vampire looking for easy prey to drain. Maybe's it's an oriental mastermind with knowledge of the future looking for test subjects and useful minions.
12. Looting. People aren't the only thing that goes missing during a revolution, stuff disappears too. Despite the armed people on the streets the revolutions wracked Russia is vulnerable to small organised groups targeting palaces, banks and museums. Historically the looting of the Winter Palace concentrated on it's huge (and themselves valuable) wine cellars, with many paintings and other artworks merely destroyed. A small team might be able to enter the palace before the Bolsheviks and 'save' such historically destroyed items without risking disruption to the Web of Time. A job for the Alexandian Society.
13. Saving Alexander. The further back in time a change is made the greater its potential for cascading changes. On Sunday 13MAR1881 Tsar Alexander II of Russia was killed not far from his palace in St. Petersburg when a pair of bombs are thrown at his carriage by members of the revolutionary "People’s Will" group. He was succeeded by his son, Alexander III who reversed his father’s reforms.
Unless someone intervenes and changes history. What if someone saved the life of the (relatively) liberal, reforming, Alexander II, and he didn't die at the hands of Ignacy Hryniewiecki that cold Sunday morning? Perhaps a very different and more pacifist Russia would emerge, with huge consequences for history. If only Alexander had taken the advice of his guards and left the area after Nikolai Rysakov was captured following the first bomb’s detonation…
Perhaps the three "People's Will" assassins (Nikolai Rysakov, Ignacy Hryniewiecki, and Ivan Emelyanov) are themselves killed, or Alexander remains in the safety of his armoured carriage (as he was urged) or leaves the scene
As czar, Alexander did much to liberalize and modernize Russia, including the abolition of serfdom in 1861. On the day he was killed Alexander had signed a proclamation (the Loris-Melikov constitution) that would have created two legislative commissions made up of indirectly elected representatives.
14. The Bad Trip. While Lenin isn't wholly responsible for the success of the Bolshevik faction of the revolutionaries he was a major factor. Sent to Russia from Switzerland partially at the instigation of the German government he travelled across Germany in the famous 'sealed train'8 (to keep him and his ideas inside and away from people).
What if the party of thirty two didn't arrive? A soupçon of advanced nerve gas perhaps?
No Bolshevik coup takes place in October. Might liberal social democracies have been more likely to succeed in post-war Europe without the anti-Bolshevik hysteria? What about the US, with the Palmer Raids and the 'Red Scare'? Would Russia have seen a weak social democrat government, a 'White' military coup or a descent into warlordism?
Alternatively maybe Lenin is sniped at the shabby Finland Station or when he alights from the ferry in Trelleborg. Or the Baltic ferry sinks mysteriously, or the horse sleds carrying the party across the frozen river into Finland are attacked.
Lenin, leader of the extreme faction of the Social Democrats, arrived here on Monday night by way of Germany. His action in accepting from the German government a passage from Switzerland through Germany arouses intense indignation here. He has come back breathing fire, and demanding the immediate and unconditional conclusions of peace, civil war against the army and government, and vengeance on Kerensky and Chkheidze, whom he describes as traitors to the cause of International Socialism.
15. Trotsky stays in Canada. So far I've concentrated on Lenin, but what of the progenitor of world-wide revolution and loser of the conflict with Stalin to success Lenin, Lev Bronstein aka Leon Trotsky In the spring of 1917 Trotsky was an insignificant Russian exile living in New York City, that's where he first heard the news that a spontaneous revolution had toppled the Romanovs and left Russia in chaos. Overjoyed he obtained travel papers at the Russian consulate and booked his family passage aboard a Norwegian steamer bound for their homeland, now "liberated by the revolution". The British disagreed. British intelligence (with which Sidney Reilly was actively involved and may have met Trotsky in NYC) was already on the trail. When the ship pulled in for a stop at Halifax in Canada Trotsky and a small group of other Russians were arrested, described as "dangerous socialists". Britain wanted to preserve the fragile provisional government that kept Russia in the Great War and MI-6 suspected that Trotsky’s passage had been funded by the German enemy (it may have been, certainly someone funded him). There was an altercation, according to the Canadian police report the Russians "got violent", with Trotsky biting one cop as he was dragged off the ship. (His eleven-year-old son also punched one of the officers).
Trotsky and the other Russians aboard were taken by train to Amherst Internment Camp, while his family was allowed to stay in Halifax. In the camp in Nova Scotia Trotsky infuriated the camp's CO, Colonel Arthur Morris, especially when he incited imprisoned German sailors to support his communist beliefs. The German officers were not amused. Freedom was at land; the left-wing Russian press went into a frenzy by the news that a prominent comrade was being held against his will by Canadians. Rapidly Amherst’s most difficult prisoner became an international incident (and a legal cause célèbre given the dubious legality of his arrest and detention with the Norwegians and Americans becoming involved). After barely a month the British ordered Trotsky freed after receiving an official request from Pavel Milyukov, the foreign minister of Russia’s Provisional Government.
Options: 1. Sink the ship, the SS Kristianiafjord, carrying Trotsky. German submarine blamed. 2. Stage an incident when the ship is boarded and kill him. 3. A brawl at the camp turns deadly. 4. The British don't release him.
Without Trotsky or Lenin the October Revolution may fail. Without both it'll probably never happen.
I have a few more ideas that I hope to post later
Comments? Ideas? Suggestions?
1. Remember the Russians were still using the Julian calendar until the Bolsheviks imposes the Gregorian. Therefore the "February" revolution ran from 22 February to 03 March locally, but 08 March to 16 March elsewhere. I'm sure there's a possibility for confusing time travellers in there.....
2. And they still curse Churchill in Wales.
3. Did he have something to hide?
4. That'd be Sir Robert Hamilton Bruce Lockhart, Wiki.
5. Can anyone say 'twonky'?
6. As introduced in The Haunting of Malkin Place, though the chronology there is rather dubious.
7. I plan a more detailed piece on this subject sometime, inspired by this and this.
8. A murky and complicated business.
Time, time,time, see what’s become of me. While I looked around for my possibilities... My AITAS files.