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Machine Guns, Hysteria, and the February Revolution

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Countless eyewitnesses to the February Revolution of 1917 in Petrograd claimed to have heard or seen machine guns firing from bell towers and rooftops at demonstrators below. Rumors of vile government officials orchestrating these attacks circulated widely within the population and fed upon, and into, hostility toward the Old Regime. Yet an investigating commission of the Provisional Government, along with other objective sources, suggests that the entire phenomenon was at least overblown and perhaps even almost entirely a figment or people's imagination, suggesting that under the right circumstances an entire population can lose its ability to sort fact from fiction.


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