Tuesday, May 27, 2014


This Wednesday, May 28th, is the anniversary of the fall of the Paris Commune. The Paris Commune was a revolutionary and socialist government that briefly ruled Paris from 18 March until 28 May 1871. The killing of two French army generals by soldiers of the Commune's National Guard and the refusal of the Commune to accept the authority of the French government led to its harsh suppression by the regular French Army in "La Semaine sanglante" ("The Bloody Week") beginning on 21 May 1871. Debates over the policies and outcome of the Commune had significant influence on the ideas of Karl Marx.

How did it all began? Well, on 2 September 1870, after his unexpected defeat at the Battle of Sedan in the Franco-Prussian War, Emperor Louis Napoleon III surrendered to the Prussian Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. When the news reached Paris on 3 September, shocked and angry crowds came out into the streets, the Empress Eugenie, the regent of the Emperor, fled the city, and the Government of the Second Empire swiftly collapsed. Republican and radical deputies of the French National Assembly went to the Hotel de Ville and proclaimed the new French Republic, and formed a Government of National Defense. Though the Emperor and the French Army had been defeated at Sedan, the war continued. The German army marched swiftly toward Paris.

On the morning of 27 May, the regular army soldiers of Generals Grenier, Ladmirault and Montaudon launched an attack on the National Guard artillery on the heights of the Buttes-Chaumont. The heights were captured at the end of the afternoon by the first regiment of the French Foreign Legion. The last remaining strongpoint of the National Guard was the cemetery of Pere-Lachaise, defended by about two hundred men. At 6:00 in the evening, the army used cannon to demolish the gates and the First Regiment of naval infantry stormed into the cemetery. Savage fighting followed around the tombs until nightfall, when the last one hundred and fifty Guardsmen, many of them wounded, were surrounded and surrendered. The captured guardsman were taken to the wall of the cemetery, known today as the Communards' Wall, and shot.

On 28 May, the regular army captured the last remaining positions of the Commune, which offered little resistance. In the morning the regular army captured la Roquette prison and freed the remaining 170 hostages. The army took fifteen hundred prisoners at the National Guard position on Rue Haxo, and two thousand more at Derroja, near Pere-Lachaise. A handful of barricades at rue Ramponneau and rue de Tourville held out into the middle of the afternoon, when all resistance ceased.

The Paris Commune inspired other uprisings named or called Communes: in Moscow (December 1905); Budapest (March–July 1919); Canton (December 1927), and, most famously, Saint Petersburg (1917). The Commune was regarded with admiration and awe by later Communist and leftist leaders, including Vladimir LeninJoseph Stalin and Mao. It also inspired anarchism in significant historical uprisings.

Today marks the 143rd anniversary of this event. Look at our posts every week for a new 'this week in history' post!

The TutorChatLive.org Team

*All materials, including the pictures, were obtained from the history of the Commune by Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray, a comprehensive collection of eye-witness accounts referenced to original sources are presented in "Paris under Siege" by Joanna Richardson and Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.

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