By Maurice Paléologue
JUNE 3-AUGUST 24, 1915
National feeling roused.---Unrest in Moscow.---The Minister of the Interior replaced.---Obsequies of the Grand Duke Constantine.---The cathedral of the fortress; memories of Kropotkin.---Launching of the cruiser Ismaïl.---The War Minister replaced: General Sukhomlinov's responsibility for the defeat of the Russian armies.---Negotiations with the Balkan States.---The Emperor's appeal to his people.---Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria; private reasons for his hatred of Russia.---Antagonism between Moscow and Petrograd.---The Duc de Morny; as Ambassador to Alexander II; his marriage.---The Council of War at Chantilly: decision to help the Russian army.---Fresh Austro-German successes.---The Procurator of the Holy Synod replaced.---Rasputin is banished from Petrograd; his farewell to the Empress.---Launching of the cruiser Borodino.---Reopening of the Duma.---Public feeling aroused.---The Germans enter Warsaw.---The Jewish question before the Duma.----Cloistered life of the sovereigns in their palace; contrast with the Court in previous reigns.---"Liberal nationalism"; the dream of a national coup d'état.---Stormy session of the Duma.---Progress of the German offensive in Lithuania. ---Rasputin's return to Petrograd.
Thursday, June 3, 1915.
The Austro-Germans are continuing their advance on the right bank of the Save and the Russians have been unable to maintain their position in Przemysl; the fortress has, therefore, been evacuated this afternoon.
Since the first fighting in May on the Dunajec the number of prisoners left in the enemy's hands by the Russian army has risen to nearly three hundred thousand men.
Sunday, June 6, 1915.
Public opinion in Russia has been particularly stirred by the Galician defeats because few illusions are cherished about the chances of a speedy success in the Dardanelles.
But among all classes in the country, and particularly in the provinces, a new current can be traced. Instead of giving way to despondency, as after previous defeats, public opinion is protesting, quivering with indignation, demanding penalties and remedies, and affirming its determination to win. In the highest of spirits, Sazonov said to me this morning:
"You're seeing the Russian people in their true colours now! We're going to witness a magnificent resurrection of national feeling!"
All the political parties---except the extreme Right, of course---are insisting that the Duma shall be summoned at once, to put an end to the blundering of the military administration and organize the civil mobilization of Russia.
Friday, June 11, 1915.
There has been unrest in Moscow for several days. Rumours of treason were circulating among the crowd and accusations have been made openly against the Emperor, the Empress, Rasputin and all the influential persons at Court.
Yesterday grave disorder broke out and it is continuing to-day. A large number of shops belonging to Germans, or with signs with German terminations, have been looted.
Saturday, June 12, 1915.
Order has been restored in Moscow. Yesterday evening the soldiers had to use their arms.
At first the police let the rioters do as they liked, by way of giving vent to the feelings of anger and humiliation which the Galician defeats have aroused among the citizens of Moscow. But the agitation assumed such a scale, that it has become necessary to suppress it by force.
Sunday, June 13, 1915.
The disorders in Moscow have been particularly serious owing to one element to which the press descriptions have not alluded.
On the Krasnaïa Plotchad, the famous "Red Square," which has witnessed so many historical scenes, the mob insulted the Royal Family, demanded that the Empress should be incarcerated in a convent, the Emperor deposed and the crown transferred to the Grand Duke Nicholas, Rasputin hung, etc.
There were also stormy demonstrations at the gates of the Convent of Martha-and-Mary, the abbess of which is the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, the Empress's sister and widow of the Grand Duke Sergei. This charming woman, who spends her whole life in devotion and good works, has been smothered with insults, for the people of Moscow have long been convinced that she is a German spy; they even go so far as to allege that she is hiding her brother, the Grand Duke of Hesse, in her convent.
All this news has caused the greatest consternation at Tsarskoïe-Selo. The Empress is violently attacking Prince Yussupov, the Governor-General of Moscow, for allowing the imperial family to be exposed to such outrages by his lack of judgment and moral weakness.
Yesterday the Emperor received the President of the Duma, Rodzianko, who urged him very strongly to convoke the National Assembly at once. The Emperor gave him a sympathetic hearing, but has not given the slightest inkling of his intentions.
Monday, June 14, 19 15.
Since the evacuation of Przemysl the Russian army of Central Galicia has been offering the most stubborn resistance between the Save and the Visnia, for the purpose of covering Lemberg. Its front has just been pierced east of Jaroslav. The Germans have made 15,000 prisoners.
Tuesday, June 15, 1915.
Goremykin, the President of the Council, has broken down under the strain of age and the course of events, and asked the Emperor to accept his resignation. As the reply he received was merely evasive, he remarked yesterday to one of his friends: "The Emperor can't see that the candles have already been lit round my coffin and that the only thing required to complete the ceremony is myself!"
Wednesday, June 16, 1915.
Judging by a confidential remark made by Madame Vyrubova to Countess N-----, the Minister of the Interior, Nicholas Maklakov, the Procurator of the Holy Synod, Sabler, and the Minister of Justice, Stcheglovitov, are doing their utmost to dissuade the Emperor from summoning the Duma, and also to convince him that Russia can continue the war no longer.
On the question of the Duma the Tsar's mind remains impenetrable, even though the Tsaritsa is backing the views of the ministers with all her might. But on the question of the prosecution of the war Nicholas II has used language which no one could have suspected of him: "To make peace now would mean disgrace and revolution simultaneously!" The Emperor was not less emphatic in declaring that if Russia abandoned her allies at this moment, she would cover herself with everlasting shame. But she has adjured the Emperor to make no concession to parliamentarism, and keeps on repeating: "You must remember, now more than ever before, that you are an autocrat by divine consecration! God would never forgive you for failing in the duties he has entrusted to you on earth!"
Friday, June 18, 1915.
When Buchanan and I met at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs this morning the same idea was in our minds
"To-day is the centenary of Waterloo!"
But this is not the time for the ironic pleasures of historical comparisons: we have just received an important piece of news. The Minister of the Interior, Maklakov, has been relieved of his functions and replaced by Prince Nicholas Borissovitch Stcherbatov, the Administrator-General of the imperial stud.
Sazonov is triumphant. Maklakov's resignation clearly shows that the Emperor adheres faithfully to the policy of the Alliance and is determined to continue the war.
The new Minister of the Interior has lived very much in retirement hitherto, but Sazonov describes him as of moderate and judicious mind, and says that his patriotism is beyond question.
Saturday, June 19, 1915.
The Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovitch (born in 1858), grandson of the Emperor Nicholas, younger brother of the Queen Dowager of Greece and husband of Princess Elizabeth of Saxe-Altenburg, died yesterday at Pavlovsk, where he was living a very retired life.(#1)
At six o'clock to-day the body was transferred with great pomp to the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, in the fortress, which is both the Bastille and Saint-Denis of the Romanovs.
The Emperor and all the Grand Dukes followed the funeral car on foot. They carried the huge coffin from the doorway of the church to the catafalque set up opposite the iconostasis.
The ceremony is only the prelude to the solemn obsequies and, for the orthodox liturgy, was comparatively short, though it took not less than an hour.
The Emperor, the Dowager Empress, the Empress, the Grand Dukes, Grand Duchesses and all the princes and princesses of the imperial family were there on the right of the catafalque; the diplomatic corps was grouped beside them.
I thus found myself within a few paces of the Emperor and had an excellent opportunity of observing him. He has changed materially during the three months since I saw him last. His hair is thinner and has turned grey in places; his face, too, is thinner, and there was a grave and distant look in his eyes.
On his left the Dowager Empress stood motionless, raising her head in a majestic and statuesque attitude which she never abandoned for a moment, for all her eight-and-sixty years. At her side the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna stood rigid, nervously working her hands. Her face was veined like marble and every now and then she turned deathly pale, and her uneven and jerky breathing made her bosom heave. Immediately next in the same row was the Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, who held herself with the same statuesque dignity as her sister-in-law, the Dowager Empress.
Then came the Emperor's four daughters. Olga, the eldest, continually cast an anxious glance towards her mother.
By a departure from the usages of the orthodox Church, three chairs had been placed behind the two Empresses and the Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna. To the Empress Alexandra standing is torture, and four times was she compelled to sit down. On each occasion she covered her eyes with her hand, as if in apology for her weakness. Instead of giving way, the two ladies next to her held themselves better than ever---this mute protest contrasting the grand manner of the previous reign with the degeneration of the present Court.
During a long and monotonous litany the new Minister of the Interior, Prince Stcherbatov, introduced himself to me. He has an intelligent and frank face; there is warmth in his face and his whole being is congenial. Without invitation, he said to me:
"My programme is simple. The instructions I am about to issue to the governors of the empire may be summed up thus: Everything for the war until full and final victory. I shall not tolerate disorder, weakness or pessimism."
I congratulated him on this point of view and insisted on the urgency of henceforth concentrating all the productive resources of the country on supplies for the army.
At this point the clergy were beginning the final prayers. Through the clouds of incense that melancholy and unceasing invocation, which seems to summarize all the religious fervour of the Russian soul, ascended upwards: "Gospodi pomilouï!" "Lord have mercy upon us!" In the tower above, the bells of the cathedral carried on the refrain.
Then I suddenly remembered one of the most moving recollections to be found in Kropotkin's Memoirs. Confined in the state prison a few yards away, the great revolutionary listened day and night to the chimes of these same bells:
Every quarter of an hour they chime a 'Gospodi pomilouï . . . .. . Lord have mercy upon us.' Then the great bell slowly strikes the hour with long intervals between each stroke. At the melancholy hour of midnight the invocations were followed by a 'Boje tsaria kranie. . . .' 'God save the Tsar.' (#2) The chime lasted for a quarter of an hour. It was barely over when a fresh ' Gospodi pomilouï' told the sleepless prisoner that a quarter of an hour of his useless life had just sped, and that many quarters of an hour, many hours, many days, many months. of this vegetable existence had still to pass before his gaolers, or death perhaps, came to deliver him. . . ."
Sunday, June 20, 1915
The reawakening of the national energies was confirmed yesterday in Moscow by an impressive demonstration. The Union of the Zemstvos and the Union of the Towns met there in congress. Prince Lvov, who presided, fully revealed the impotence of the administration to mobilize the resources of the country in the service of the army. "The problem with which Russia is faced," he declared, "is far beyond the powers of our bureaucracy. The solution demands an effort from the whole country. . . . After ten months of war we are not yet mobilized. The whole of Russia must become one vast military organization, a huge arsenal for the armies. . . ."
A practical programme was drawn up at once. So Russia is on the right road at last!
Monday, June 21, 1915.
At half-past ten I returned to the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul to be present at the solemn obsequies of the Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovitch.
Exhausted by Saturday's ceremony, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna has been unable to be present. The Dowager Empress and the Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, alone in the front row at the Emperor's side, have triumphed.
The funeral service proceeded for two hours on end, with its amazing wealth of elaborate incident and its grandiose and pathetic pomp.
The Emperor was interesting to watch. Not a moment of inattention or indifference, but a natural and complete composure. Every now and then he half closed his eyes, and when he opened them his gaze seemed to reflect some light within.
At length the interminable liturgy came to a close candles---symbols of the eternal brightness to be revealed to the soul of the deceased---were distributed among the officiating clergy. The whole church then glowed with a dazzling splendour which made the gold and precious stones of the iconostasis sparkle gloriously. The Emperor stood motionless, his face and eyes set, and gazed into space at some invisible object beyond earthly horizons, beyond the confines of our illusory world.
Tuesday, June 22, 1915.
This morning the Emperor presided at the launching of a great battle cruiser, the Ismaïl, 32,000 tons, built in the Vassili-Ostrov yards, just where the Neva leaves Petrograd. The diplomatic corps and the Government were present.
It has been a bright, sunny day and the ceremony was no less imposing than picturesque. But no one seemed to take any interest in the sight. The company whispered in groups with downcast faces, for we had just heard that the Russian army is withdrawing from Lemberg.
The Emperor was quite impressive as he performed the rites decreed for the ceremony. He uncovered while the ship was being blest. The hard, merciless sunshine revealed two deep, dark wrinkles round the corners of his eyes; they were not there yesterday.
The colossal hull slid with a slow and irresistible movement into the Neva, producing a vast whirlpool; the mooring ropes stretched and strained and the Ismaïl stopped majestically.
Before leaving, the Emperor visited the workshops to which the men had hastily returned. He stayed there nearly an hour, often stopping for a chat, with that calm, confident and dignified ease which is his superlative merit in approaching those of low estate. Enthusiastic cheers, cheers which seemed to come from every throat, accompanied him during the whole of his visit. And yet this is the very soul and centre of Russian anarchism!
When we took our leave of the Emperor I congratulated him on the fine reception he had just met with in the workshops. His eyes lit up with a melancholy smile; he replied:
"I like nothing better than to feel myself in touch with my people. I needed it to-day."
Wednesday, June 23, 1915.
The editor of the Novoïe-Fremya, Suvorin, has called on me to give vent to his pessimism:
"I've lost all hope," he said; "we're doomed to disaster from now on."
To refute him I referred to the outburst of energy which has possessed the entire Russian nation at the present moment, an outburst which has just been translated in Moscow into effective decisions. He resumed:
"I know my country. This spasm won't last long. In a short time we shall lapse into our old apathy. To-day we are calling the tchinovniks names; we hold them responsible for all the evils that have descended upon us, and we're right; but we can't get on without them. To-morrow, from indolence or weakness of will, we shall give ourselves back into their clutches."
Thursday, June 24, 1915
Walking on the Islands this afternoon with Madame V----- I told her of all the discouraging remarks Suvorin made to me yesterday.
"You may be perfectly certain," she said, that there are thousands of Russians who think the same. Turgueniev knew all about us, and in one of his novels he has written that the Russian displays an amazing maëstria in bringing all his schemes to naught. We start out to climb the sky. But no sooner are we off than we discover that the sky is a very long way up. Then our only thought is to tumble down as soon as possible, incidentally hurting ourselves as much as possible."
Friday, June 25, 1915.
This morning the Emperor left for General Headquarters at Baranovici; the ministers have gone with him, as there is to be an important conference with the Grand Duke Nicholas. I know that Sazonov, the Finance Minister (Bark), the Minister for Agriculture (Krivoshein) and the Minister of the Interior (Prince Stcherbatov) will do their utmost to secure the immediate convocation of the Duma. Against them they will have the President of the Council (Goremykin), the Minister of Justice (Stcheglovitov), the Minister of Communications (Ruhklov) and the Procurator of the Holy Synod (Sabler).
Before leaving Tsarskoïe-Selo the Emperor of his own volition took a decision which was long overdue. He has relieved General Sukhomlinov, the War Minister, of his functions and appointed as his successor General Alexis Andreïevitch Polivanov, a member of the Council of Empire.
A heavy burden of responsibility rests on General Sukhomlinov's shoulders. In the munitions crisis he played a part which was both baneful and mysterious. On September 28 of last year, in answer to a question I had put to him officially from General Joffre, he assured me in a note that all measures were being taken to secure for the Russian armies all the munitions it might need for a long war. I was talking to Sazonov about this note a week ago and he asked me to lend it to him to show it to the Emperor; the latter was simply astounded at it. Not only had no steps been taken to provide for the growing needs of the Russian artillery, but since then General Sukhomlinov has insidiously devoted himself to frustrating all the innovations suggested to him with a view to developing the manufacture of shell. His attitude has been strange and enigmatical; perhaps we must seek an explanation in the Minister of War's fierce hatred of the Grand Duke Nicholas. He has never forgiven the latter for being appointed generalissimo at the very moment he thought himself certain of the post.
General Polivanov is clever, energetic and hard-working he has a sense of organization and discipline. He is also credited with liberal opinions which will make him popular with the Duma.
Monday, June 28, 1915.
Sazonov, who has just returned from General Headquarters, brings back good impressions, at any rate as regards the spirit animating the High Command.
"The Russian army," he told me, "will continue its retreat as slowly as possible, snatching every available opportunity of counter-attacking and worrying the enemy. If the Grand Duke Nicholas ascertains that the Germans are withdrawing some of their troops to transfer them to the western front, he will immediately resume the offensive. The plan of campaign he has adopted enables him to hope that our troops will be able to hold Warsaw for another two months. I certainly found an excellent spirit prevailing in the staff."
On the political side he told me that the Emperor is about to appeal to all the forces and resources of the country in a formal rescript which will simultaneously announce the meeting of the Duma in the near future.
The Polish question was also examined. The Emperor has decreed the formation of a committee, with six Russian and six Polish members under the chairmanship of Goremykin, which is to establish the basis of the autonomous regime promised to the kingdom by the manifesto of August 16, 1914. The Minister of Justice, Stcheglovitov, and the Procurator of the Holy Synod, Sabler, implored the Emperor to give up this idea, representing that the autonomy of any part of the Empire is incompatible with the sacrosanct principles of autocratic absolutism. Their persistence annoyed the Emperor instead of convincing him. It is even thought that they are going to be dismissed
Tuesday, June 29, 1915.
The cacophony of the Balkan negotiations is continuing. It is quite impossible to reconcile the competing and conflicting claims of Serbia, Rumania, Greece and Bulgaria!
To make the problem even more insoluble, the general retreat of the Russian armies has robbed us of all respect and prestige in Nish as in Bucharest, in Athens as in Sofia---especially Sofia. I can picture the vindictive glee and the hilarious and sardonic laughter with which Tsar Ferdinand must be marking off the retirement of the Russians on the map every morning. How often has he given vent to his hatred of Russia before me in the old days! Since the second Balkan War that hatred has become, a morbid obsession, as it is mainly to the policy of Russia that he attributes his final disaster of 1913. And I remember how in November of that year, meeting King Alphonso III in Vienna, he remarked to him. "I shall have my revenge against Russia, and it. will be a terrible revenge!"
Wednesday, June 30, 1915.
This morning the Press publishes an imperial rescript, dated June 27. addressed to the President of the Council:
From all parts of our native land I am receiving appeals testifying that all Russians desire to devote their strength and resources to supplying the army. From this unanimous expression of the national will I draw the unshakable assurance of a radiant future.
This long war perpetually imposes fresh efforts, but we temper our will and steel our hearts to continue the struggle, with God's help, until the full and final triumph of the Russian armies.
The enemy must be beaten, otherwise peace is impossible. With an inviolate confidence in the inexhaustible resources of Russia I expect the administrative and public institutions, Russian industry and all faithful sons of the Fatherland, without distinction of class or opinion, to work together with one heart and mind to supply the needs of the army. This is the sole, the national problem to which the thoughts of all Russia---invincible in her unity---must now be drawn.
The rescript ends with an announcement of the meeting of the Council of the Empire and the Duma in the immediate future.
Thursday, July 1, 1915.
During recent weeks all the Jews inhabiting Eastern Lithuania and Courland have been expelled en masse, by order of the High Command. They are being driven off in the direction of Jitomir, Kiev and Pultava. As usual the Russian authorities have proceeded with this operation without the slightest preparation, have shown no consideration whatever and acted with ruthless brutality. The Jewish population of Kovno, for example, a population of 40,000 souls, was warned in the evening of May 3 that it had forty-eight hours in which to leave the town. At all points the evacuation has been marked by tragic incidents, infamous acts of violence and scenes of looting and arson.
Simultaneously there has been a fresh wave of anti-Semitism all over the empire. If the Russian armies are beaten, of course it is the fault of the Jews. The reactionary journal, the Volga, wrote a few days ago: People of Russia, look round and see who is your real enemy. The Jew! No pardon for the Jew! From generation to generation this race, the accursed of God, has been hated and despised by all. The blood of the sons of Holy Russia, which they betray every day, cries aloud for vengeance!
The number of Jews expelled from Poland, Lithuania and Courland since the beginning of the war, and exposed to the same unhappy lot, exceeds 600,000
Friday, July 2, 1915.
I went for a walk on the Islands about eleven o'clock this evening. How fairy-like is the loveliness of these "white nights" of the summer solstice. Is it twilight still? Or already dawn? One cannot tell. A milky, diffuse, iridescent light fills all space to the depths of the zenith. A haze of pearl and opal hovers over the waters. There is not a breath of air. Trees, banks, paths, the distant horizon, the whole landscape are bathed in a religious calm, a sort of infinite sweetness. It might be called the region of the lost, the resort of spirits, the elysian meadows; you look for the shade of Dido, the Phoenician, wandering under the myrtle:
Inter quas Phoenissa, recens a vulnere Dido
Errabat silva in magna....
Saturday, July 3, 1915.
The imperial rescript which was published three days ago is causing great excitement. Everyone demands the immediate summoning of the Duma and some go so far as to claim that henceforward ministers shall be responsible to Parliament---a change which would mean nothing less than the end of autocracy.
There is considerable unrest among the workmen. One of my informers, B -----, has notified me of a recrudescence of socialist propaganda in the barracks, particularly in the Guards' barracks. The Pavlovsky and Volhynian regiments are said to be more or less contaminated.
Monday, July 5, 1915.
Between the Bug and the Vistula the Austro-Germans are continuing their march on Lublin.
The Russian army is retiring, by swift and successive stages, on positions it has to abandon practically at once, owing to lack of arms and ammunition.
Saturday, July 10, 1915.
Grube, the President of the Bank of Siberia, whose perspicacity I have often had occasion to admire, arrived here yesterday from Sofia, where he had gone on business.
He came to see me this morning and gave me his impressions:
"Neither Radoslavov's Government nor any other," he said, "will be able to announce its adhesion to the allied powers unless at the same moment it announces their consent to Bulgaria's annexing Western Macedonia immediately. On that point there is no doubt. As for the Tsar Ferdinand, he has been definitely won over by the Teuton empires."
I broke in:
"Definitely! Are you sure?"
"Radoslavov, Tontchev, Ghenadiev, Danev and everyone else have told me so."
"We shall fail in everything if we have Tsar Ferdinand against us. But, fortunately, it's always possible to do something with him as he has an eminently diplomatic, crafty and elastic mind. On him we must concentrate all our persuasive powers."
As soon as he had gone I went to the Foreign Office and discussed this conversation with Sazonov.
We were at one in thinking that it is essential to concentrate all our efforts on Tsar Ferdinand; then we looked into the various arguments which may still give us some chance of winning him over to our cause.
"The vital thing," said Sazonov, "is to convince him that in the long run it is we who will win."
"That's not enough. We must go further and let him think that our victory depends to a large extent on him, and that in some ways the fate of Europe and the world lies in his hands. This man's self-conceit exceeds anything you can imagine. Our first business is to intrigue and capture his self-conceit."
Then we discussed a more delicate subject. When I was at Sofia four years ago the financial position of Tsar Ferdinand was very precarious; he was heavily in debt. His lack of system, luxurious and exotic tastes, and inability to deny himself the indulgence of his dilettantism and love of display had plunged him into cruel embarrassments, which must have been made even worse by the two Balkan Wars. Wouldn't it be possible to come to the rescue?
"The offer," I said, "would be a delicate matter. But with certain precautions as to form, and a guarantee of absolute secrecy. . . . Above all, if the offer came from high up, the Emperor, for instance ......"
"Of course, the Emperor is indicated. . ."
Then he confided to me that about the end of 1912 the Tsar of the Bulgarians, suffering from "a terrible attack of impecuniosity," as Panurge expressed it, begged the Emperor Nicholas to lend him three million francs:
"I strongly advised the Emperor to decline; Ferdinand is not the sort of friend you get through gratitude. But you know how kind the Emperor is; he let himself be moved by the piteous jeremiads of the Coburg. I persisted all the same, with the excuse that such a loan could not be a charge on the secret service fund. The Emperor then decided to find the money from his privy purse. Next day General Volkov gave me three million francs, which I at once sent on to Sofia. Ferdinand gave the receipt to our minister, Nekludov. I have it there, in my safe."
"You took a receipt from Ferdinand! What a mistake! You ruined the whole business with that receipt. . . . That the three millions were lost anyhow was a certainty beforehand: you might just as well have thrown them into the Black Sea. But from the moment the sacrifice was made there was only one chance of extracting a nebulous moral advantage out of it---to affect a blind trust in Ferdinand's mere word, his religion of honour, the beauty of his soul and the well-known honesty of his views. He's the vainest of men. The idea that you have his signed receipt for three millions in your archives must be a crushing humiliation and an intolerable insult to him. He'll never forgive Russia for that! "
Monday, July 12, 1915.
From all I hear, the citizens of Moscow are utterly furious with high social and Court circles in Petrograd, whom they accuse of having completely lost touch with national feeling, hoping for defeat and preparing the way for a betrayal.
The duel, which has been in progress for nearly two hundred years, between the metropolis of orthodox Slavism and Peter the Great's artificial capital, has never perhaps been so embittered, even in the heroic epoch of the struggle between Zapadnichestvo and Slavianophilstvo, Westernism and Slavophilism.
At the time to which I refer, about 1860, that ardent idealist, Constantine Aksakov, addressed these fiery lines to the memory of Peter the Great: You misunderstood Russia and her whole past. The brand of the accursed is therefore set upon your senseless' heart. Ruthlessly did you repudiate Moscow, and away from your people you built a solitary city; for it was no longer possible for you to live together. About the same date his brother, Ivan Aksakov, wrote to Dostoïevski: "The first essential to the resurrection of national feeling among us is that we loathe St. Petersburg with all our might, from the bottom of our hearts. Let us spit upon it."
Tuesday, July 13, 1915.
This evening my guests at dinner have been Sir George and Lady Georgina Buchanan, the Duc de Morny and a few close personal friends in the embassy.
It is some time since the Duc de Morny came to Petrograd, where he is trying to obtain army supply contracts on behalf of an American syndicate. Although he is not altogether presentable and the business in which he is engaged does not seem to me any too patriotic, I invited him out of consideration for his father and to prevent anyone from thinking that the French Embassy is closed to him.
It was on the eve of the Congress of Paris, in August, 1856, that the Comte de Morny(#3) came to St. Petersburg to renew relations between France and Russia. The brilliance of his term of office has often been extolled, but there is something better to say of it. Morny was, in the highest degree, a realist. He had calculated with the greatest shrewdness the benefits the Napoleonic dynasty could reap from the outstanding position in which the Crimean War had placed it. All his correspondence is a model of wisdom and perspicacity. He hated verbiage. Highly sceptical by temperament, he was never the dupe of anything or anyone, not even himself. In his relations with Alexander II and Gortchakov he displayed marvellous dexterity and an elastic, subtle and caressing method. He wanted to make a definite alliance out of the understanding Count Orlov had so successfully worked to bring about between the two Courts during the Paris negotiations. His conception of this alliance had those characteristics of accurate judgment and downright realism which were the law of his intellect. But he was the servant of a very different being, an emperor who lived on dreams, and dreams alone, and took no pleasure in aught save vast and nebulous plans, and chimerical and complicated schemes. It was not Morny's views which won the day, but the theory of nationalities. After 1857 French policy started on that long series of errors which, by inevitable logic, was to culminate in Sedan.
Unfortunately there was always a secret blemish about Morny; the reverse of the medal lacked refinement and pride. The brilliance of his embassy was counter-balanced by ignoble commercial dealings---the sale of pictures, wine and horses.
His term of office ended in a scandal. On January 7, 1857, he had married a perfectly charming girl, Princess Sophie Sergueïevna Troubetzkoï, an orphan and maid-of-honour to the Dowager Empress. Now he had left behind him in Paris a notorious and long-standing liaison with the celebrated Countess Lehon, née Mosselmann, wife of the Belgian minister under the July Monarchy. It had not been merely a linking of hearts and passions, for material interests also had taken a prominent place. About 1840, when Morny left the army and was merely a needy man-about-town, the Countess, a woman of immense wealth, supplied him with the means to make his fortune. The speculations on which they jointly embarked, the one bringing her money and the other his well-directed energy, had succeeded. A sort of financial and commercial partnership had thus gradually taken the place of the two lovers' first ecstasies. After the coup d'état of December Morny had unashamedly thrown himself into speculation on the Stock Exchange; the Countess had found it highly profitable. Unfortunately Morny was feeling this chain a burden. His rank in the empire and the immense prospects opening to his ambition made him extremely anxious to found a family. His marriage with young Princess Troubetzkoï had been arranged in the most complete secrecy. When Countess Lehon heard of the event she breathed fire and slaughter:
Notumque furens quid femina possit.
The deserted Ariana went openly to the courts and demanded the liquidation of the partnership which still subsisted between herself and the faithless lover, and she employed Rouher as her advocate. To avert the shameful exposure of an action, and revelations in which the régime would have been involved, Napoleon III intervened; he himself decided the apportionment of the assets in dispute. But simultaneously he recalled his ambassador, though by way of throwing dust in the public eye he restored him to the post of President of the Corps Législatif.
After dinner, in a conversation with Madame S-----, who has a taste for history, I reconstructed for her the extraordinary genealogy of my guest:
"In his veins he has the blood of the Beauharnais through Queen Hortense, the blood of Talleyrand through his grandfather, Charles de Flahaut, and the blood of Louis XV through the same Charles de Flahaut's mother, née Filleul."
"I know all about the Queen Hortense side. But I don't understand how Talleyrand, and particularly Louis XV, come in. Please explain."
"It's like this. When Charles de Flahaut, who was Queen Hortense's lover, was born in 1785, his mother, the Countess Adelaide, had been for five years the admitted mistress of Talleyrand, who was then known as the Abbé de Périgord. There has never been any doubt about the paternity of the latter. On the other side the Countess de Flahaut was the daughter of a Madame Filleul, whose husband held some minor post at the palace of Versailles. This lady was very pretty: she helped Louis XV to pass several pleasant evenings in the little private rooms of the Parc-aux-Cerfs. A daughter, Adelaide, was born of this royal caprice."
"You are very learned," replied Madame S------, "but you don't know all. Your genealogical tree is not complete."
"What else can there be?"
"There's the fact that your guest of to-night, that man standing over there, probably has the blood of the Romanovs also in him."
"Really! How? "
"Sophie Troubetzkoï, who married Morny, was the only child of a Princess Sergei Troubetzkoï, whose amorous adventures were the subject of much talk about 1835. It has always been said that she was the mistress of Nicholas I and that her daughter was also his. Proof may be lacking, but there are several weighty indications. After the death of Princess Sergei, for example, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, widow of the Emperor Nicholas, took young Sophie into her household, and two years later, when Morny asked her hand in marriage, the Emperor Alexander II gave her a dowry.
Wednesday, July 14, 1915.
The critical situation of the Russian army has resulted in a conference of the allied High Commands, which met on July 7 at Chantilly, with the French generalissimo presiding.
General Joffre laid it down that when one of the allied armies has to meet the enemy's main effort it is the duty of its partners on the other fronts to come to the rescue:
"In August and September, 1914," he continued, "the Russians took the offensive in East Prussia and Galicia with a view to easing the situation for the Anglo-French armies which had been obliged to retire before the onslaught of almost the entire German forces. To-day the situation of the Russians demands similar action on the Anglo-French side. It is a matter of honour as well as interest.... On the western front, the offensive begun by the French army on May 9 last in the plain of Arras tied down a considerable number of German troops which would otherwise have been sent east; but this offensive did not lead to the rupture of the enemy's lines nor put a stop to the advance of the Germans on the Russian front. . . ."
After giving certain details he came to the following conclusions:
(1) On the western front the French armies cannot undertake an operation on the grand scale for a few weeks, in view of the necessity of completing its ammunition supply and carrying out certain troop movements. This lapse of time will enable England to send more troops to France, in particular six divisions which are due to arrive at the beginning of August. This operation may bring about the liberation of French territory, and will in any case materially relieve the situation of the Russian army.
(2) On the Italo-Serbian front the common interest requires that the offensive already begun shall be continued by the Italian army with all its might. If the Italians apprehend an attack from Germany on their front they can provisionally limit their effort to reaching the region of Laibach-Klagenfurt. That will put them in an advantageous position to continue their offensive in the direction of Vienna and Pesth. It is essential for the Serbian army also to resume the offensive at once. The present moment is particularly favourable for a movement along the Save, with the object of joining up with the Italians and enveloping Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In a word, for reasons of honour as well as urgent necessity it is absolutely essential that the Anglo-French and Italo-Serbian armies should start a vigorous offensive as soon as possible."
The Council adopted these propositions.
Sunday, July 18, 1915.
During the last three days the dangerous position of the Russian armies has taken a serious turn for the worse: they have not only to struggle against the irresistible Austro-German thrust between the Bug and the Vistula but have also to meet a double offensive which the enemy has just opened in the north-on the Narev front and in Courland.
In the Narev region the Germans have carried the Mlava lines and made 17,000 prisoners. In Courland they have crossed the Windawa, captured Windau and are threatening Mitau, which is only fifty kilometres from Riga.
This situation seems to be fortifying the Emperor in the frame of mind he so opportunely demonstrated by his manifesto of June 27. He has, for instance, just dismissed the Procurator of the Holy Synod, Sabler, the tool of the pacifist and Germanophile coterie, and Rasputin's man. His successor is Alexander Dimitrievitch Samarin, Marshal of the Nobility of the Government of Moscow. He has great social position and a noble patriotism, and is a man of broad and strong views. It is an excellent choice.
Monday, July 19, 1915.
The same misfortune which yesterday overtook the Procurator of the Holy Synod has to-day come upon the Minister of Justice, Stcheglovitov, whose absolutist and reactionary views are in no way less violent than those of Sabler. His successor is Alexander Alexeïevitch Khvostov, member of the Council of Empire, and an honest and neutral tchinovnik.
The successive dismissals of Maklakov, Sukhomlinov, Sabler and Stcheglovitov leave not a single minister in the Government who is not a partisan of the Alliance and bent on carrying through the war. It may be noted, too, that Sabler and Stcheglovitov were the principal supporters of Rasputin.
Countess N----- said to me:
"The Emperor has taken advantage of his visit to the Stavka to take these serious decisions. He has consulted no one, not even the Empress. When the news reached Tsarskoïe-Selo, Alexandra Feodorovna was absolutely thunderstruck; she actually refused to credit it. Rasputin says that all this means great disasters in the future."
Tuesday, July 20, 1915.
I have had a talk with the Chief of Staff of the army. General Bielaïev showed me the position of the Russian armies on the map.
In Southern Poland, between the Bug and the Vistula, their line runs through Grubieszov, Krasnostav and Josephov, thirty kilometres south of Lublin. In the vicinity of Warsaw they have abandoned the course of the Bzura and Ravka and retired on the arc of a circle passing through Novo-Georgievsk, Golovin, Blonie and Grodisk, where a strongly entrenched position has been prepared. In the Narev region they are holding approximately on the line of the river, between Novo-Georgievsk and Ostrolenka. West of the Niemen they are defending the approaches to Kovno in the region of Mariampol. In the Courland sector, after evacuating Windau and Tuckum, they are based on Mitau and Shavli.
After a few far from reassuring comments on this situation, General Bielaïev continued:
"You know all about the dearth of munitions. We are not producing more than 24,000 shells a day. It's a pittance for so vast a front! But our shortage of rifles alarms me far more. Just think! In several infantry regiments which have taken part in the recent battles at least one third of the men had no rifles. These poor devils had to wait patiently, under a shower of shrapnel, until their comrades fell before their eyes and they could pick up their arms. It's a perfect marvel under the circumstances that there was no panic. It is quite true that our moujiks have an amazing capacity for endurance and resignation, but that doesn't make it any less ghastly. . One of our army commanders wrote to me the other day: 'At the beginning of the war, when we had gun ammunition and rifles, we were the victors. When the supply of munitions and arms began to give out we still fought brilliantly. To-day, with its artillery and infantry dumb, our army is drowning in its own blood.' For how long will our men survive such a fiery trial? After all, these massacres are perfectly ghastly! We must have rifles, at any cost. Couldn't France part with some. Plead our cause in Paris, please, Ambassador!"
I shall plead it most warmly; in fact I mean to telegraph to Paris this very day.
Thursday, July 22, 1915.
Rasputin has just left for his native village, Pokrovskoïe, near Tiumen, in the government of Tobolsk. His friends, the Rasputristsy (female adorers of Rasputin), as they have been called, claim that he has gone away for a little rest, "on the advice of his doctor," and will soon return. The real truth is that the Emperor has ordered him to make himself scarce.
It is the new Procurator of the Holy Synod who has managed to secure this decree of banishment.
He had hardly entered upon his new office before Samarin represented to the Emperor that it would be impossible for him to retain it if Rasputin continued secretly to manipulate the ecclesiastical administration. He then invoked his ancient Moscow origins and his title of Marshal of the Nobility, and described the mingled feelings of exasperation and grief which the scandals caused by "Grishka" have aroused in Moscow, feelings in which even the prestige of sovereign majesty is now involved. He ended in decided tones:
"The Duma will be meeting in a few days. I know that several deputies are proposing to interrogate me on the subject of Grigory Efimovitch and his underhand plottings. My conscience will compel me to say exactly what I think."
The Emperor simply replied:
"All right. I'll consider the matter."
Saturday, July 24, 1915.
The Empress's farewell to Rasputin was heartrending. She has promised him to recall him immediately after the session of the Duma, adding through her tears That won't be long!"
He replied with his usual threat: "Remember that I need neither the Emperor nor yourself. If you abandon me to my enemies it will not worry me. I'm quite able to cope with them. The demons themselves are helpless against me. . . . But neither the Emperor nor you can do without me. If I am not there to protect you, your son will come to harm!"
Wednesday, July 28, 1915.
The Germans have crossed the Vistula, north of Ivangorod, and the Russian position at Lublin is no longer tenable.
Sazonov, terribly dejected and agitated, said to me:
"For Heaven's sake get your Government to give us rifles! How can you expect our men to fight without rifles? "
"I've telegraphed already, at General Bielaïev's request. I'll repeat my plea."
According to information obtained from the General Staff, a million and a half rifles are needed to wipe out the present deficit. Russian factories are producing only 60,000 a month, though it is hoped that output will reach 90,000 in September and 150,000 in October.
Thursday, July 29, 1915.
Crossing the square adjoining the Fontanka, and close to that sinister palace in which Paul I was so expeditiously dispatched on March 23, 1801, I met Alexander Sergueievitch Taneïev.
Secretary of State, Grand Master of the Court, member of the Council of Empire and Director of the Emperor's personal Chancellery, Taneïev is the father of Anna Vyrubova and one of Rasputin's principal supporters.
We walked together in the square for a short distance. He asked me about the war. I professed an unshakable optimism. At first he seemed to agree with everything I said, but before long he was giving rein to his anxieties and gloomy apprehensions in more or less veiled phrases. One point, to which he was always returning, struck me very much; for it was not the first time it had been brought to my notice.
"Russian peasants," he said, "have a deep-rooted sense of justice; not legal justice---which they more or less confuse with the police---but moral justice, divine justice. . . . It's a very curious thing: their conscience, which doesn't worry them overmuch as a rule, is none the less so impregnated with the spirit of Christianity that it is always facing them with the problem of rewards and penalties. When a moujik thinks he has been the victim of some piece of injustice he generally submits without a word, because he is a fatalist and naturally meek; but he is always turning the injury over in his mind and telling himself that it will have to be paid for some day, either here below or before the judgment seat of God.... You may be quite certain, Ambassador, that they are saying just the same about the war. They will accept any sacrifice whatever, so long as they feel it is legitimate and necessary, in other words required by the higher interests of Russia, the wishes of the Emperor and the will of God. But if sacrifices are imposed upon them the reason for which they cannot grasp, sooner or later they will demand an account. And when the moujik ceases to be meek he becomes ferocious. That's what frightens me!"
As the whole psychology of the Russian people is to be found in Tolstoi, I have only to run through a few volumes to find what Taneïev has just told me, presented in the most dramatic form. Seeking for arguments in favour of vegetarianism the apostle of Yasnaïa Poliana ends one of his articles with a revolting description of a slaughterhouse: "They were killing a pig. One of the assistants sliced its throat with a knife. The animal began to give forth piercing and lamentable squeals; at one moment it escaped from the hands of its executioner and ran away, blood pouring from its neck. As I am short-sighted I could not see the details of the scene from a distance; all I saw was the body of the pig, which was pink like a human being's. I could hear its despairing squeals. But the coachman with me was gazing fascinated at all that was happening. The pig was caught, and they knocked it down and finished their cutting up. When the squeals had ceased the coachman heaved a deep sigh: 'Is it possible,' he said at length, is it possible that they won't have to answer for all that ?' "
During the last three months, in which Russian blood has been flowing in torrents on the plains of Poland and Galicia, how many moujiks must have been thinking: "Is it possible that they won't have to answer for all that."
Friday, July 30, 1915.
The new session of the Duma will not begin before three days, but many deputies have already returned to Petrograd, and there is quite a bustle at the Tauride Palace.
From all the provinces the same cry goes up: "Russia is in peril! The Government and the system are responsible for the military disaster. The safety of the country requires the direct help of the National Representative Assembly and permanent supervision by its members. The Russian people are more than ever determined to continue the war to victory . . ." In nearly all circles, too, we hear violent and exasperated attacks on the favouritism, corruption and German influences at Court, General Sukhomlinov, Rasputin and the Empress.
On the other hand the deputies of the Extreme Right, the members of the "Black Block," are bewailing the concessions the Emperor has just made to liberalism and raging in favour of uncompromising reaction.
Saturday, July 31, 1915.
This morning the Emperor officiated at the launching of the armoured cruiser Borodino, built in the Galerny-Ostrov yards at the mouth of the Neva. The Diplomatic Corps, Court and ministers were present at the ceremony, which has been favoured by brilliant sunshine.
On June 22 we were present at the launching of the Ismaïl on the other side of the river; we had just heard of the evacuation of Lvov. On arriving at Galerny-Ostrov to-day, we heard that the Austro-Germans entered Lublin yesterday and that the Russians are leaving Mitau!
The hard, bright sunlight threw up the leaden hue of our faces and the anxious melancholy of our expressions. The Emperor, in an attitude of fixed impassivity, looked wan and absent-minded. Several times his lips contracted, as if he were suppressing a yawn. His face barely lit up for a moment as the hull of the Borodino slipped down the ways and entered the waters of the Neva.
When the ceremony was over we proceeded to visit the yards. The Emperor was cheered everywhere. Every now and then he stopped for a chat with the workmen and gave them a smiling handshake. When he passed on the cheering redoubled.
And yet it was only yesterday that I was notified of alarming symptoms of revolutionary ferment in these same workshops!
Sunday, August 1, 1915.
The Duma resumed its sittings to-day, in an atmosphere which is heated, heavy and full of the promise of storm. Men's faces seem charged with electricity; the prevailing expression is anger or intense apprehension.
Speaking in the Emperor's name old Goremykin, the President of the Council, raises his dying voice as much as he can in a declaration that "all our thoughts and endeavours must be concentrated on the prosecution of the war. The Government has only one programme to put before you, the programme of victory."
Then General Polivanov, the War Minister, presented the following programme of victory with his practical and enthusiastic vigour: "Our army can conquer only if it feels that it has the whole country behind it, organized to become an immense reservoir from which it can draw inexhaustible supplies of everything it needs."
He was cheered as he came down from the tribune, for the sympathy he gets from the Assembly is as marked as was the hatred and contempt meted out to his predecessor, Sukhomlinov.
The aftermath of the sitting and lobby talk leave no doubt about the resolution, or rather decisions, of the Duma---to put an end to the abuses and ineptitude of the administration; to seek out those responsible, however highly placed they may be; to make some striking examples; to organize the co-operation of the national representatives with the Government in such a way as to make all the productive resources of the country available for the army; lastly to foster and galvanize in the public mind the unshakable determination to prosecute the war until complete and final victory.
Wednesday, August 4, 1915.
I have informed Sazonov that the French Government intensely regrets that it is unable to supply the Russian army with rifles.
Consternation of Sazonov.
"This refusal," he said, "is a frightful blow!"
"It's not a refusal, but the expression of a material impossibility, an utter impossibility."
Crestfallen and nodding, he continued:
"What on earth shall we do? We need 1,500,000 rifles merely to arm the regiments at the front. We're producing only 50,000 a month. And how can we instruct our depots and recruits?"
Thursday, August 5, 1915.
The debates in the Tauride Palace are becoming more and more lively. Whether in public or secret session there is a constant and implacable diatribe against the conduct of the war. All the faults of the bureaucracy are being denounced and all the vices of Tsarism forced into the limelight. The same conclusion recurs like a refrain: "Enough of lies! Enough of crimes! Reforms! Retribution! We must transform the system from top to bottom!"
By three hundred and forty-five votes out of three hundred and seventy-five cast, the Duma has just invited the Government to take proceedings against General Sukhomlinov and all officials guilty of negligence or double-dealing.
Friday, August 6, 1915.
The Germans entered Warsaw yesterday.
From the strategic point of view the effect of this event is considerable. The Russians are losing the whole of Poland with its immense resources; they will be compelled to retire upon the Bug, the Upper Niemen and the Dvina.
But the moral effects make me even more anxious.
May it not be that the spasm of national energy, which Russia has been revealing for some time past, risks being choked by this new disaster which leads us to anticipate others---such as the loss of Osowiec, Kovno and Vilna---at short intervals?
Sunday, August 8, 1915.
With each new retreat of the Russian armies the police carry the expulsion of the Jews a stage further. As usual, the operation is everywhere carried out in great haste and with equal clumsiness and brutality. Those affected are only notified at the last moment; they have no opportunity or means of taking anything with them. They are hastily crowded into trains, driven like sheep along the roads and not even told their destination, which anyhow changes twenty times during the exodus. Almost everywhere, too, the orthodox population rushes out to loot the Ghetto the moment the order of expulsion is known in a town. Driven away into Podolia, Volhynia, Bessarabia and the Ukraine, these Jews are reduced to a terrible condition of misery. The total number of Jews expelled has reached 800,000.
This barbarous practice, inflicted on a whole race under the pretext that its religious atavism lays it collectively open to suspicion of espionage and treason, has at last stirred the wrath of the liberal groups in the Duma. A Jewish deputy from Kovno, Friedmann, gave utterance to an eloquent protest:
"The Russian Jews," he said, "are taking a large part in the war.... The Press has recorded the enrolment of a considerable number of Jewish volunteers. Their education entitled these volunteers to commissioned rank; they knew they would never get it, but enrolled all the same. . . . Several hundred thousand Jews are giving their blood on the battlefields.
"But for all that we are witnessing a recrudescence of outrages and iniquities against the Jews. . . . In a long war alternations of success and failure are inevitable, so it is highly convenient to have so-called culprits always available; responsibility for reverses can be imputed to them. A scapegoat in reserve is a perpetual necessity. Alas! at all times it has been the fate of Israel to be that scapegoat!
"The enemy had hardly crossed our frontier before an abominable legend became current: The Jews are sending their gold to the Germans; this tainted gold has been found in aeroplanes, coffins, barrels of vodka and breasts of duck and mutton! Spread and authenticated by the authorities, this legend has been accepted everywhere.
"Next we saw a series of abominable measures applied to the Jews, measures unknown to any race in the whole course of history. . . It is the height of iniquity to accuse a whole race of treason. So infamous a calumny could only have seen the light in a despotic country, a country in which Jews are deprived of the most elementary rights. I tell Russia to her face, and the civilized world to its face, that the accusation against the Jews is naught but an ignoble lie, invented by men who are trying to cover up their own crimes."
Monday, August 9, 1915.
Sazonov and I have been discussing the curious kind of isolation which the Emperor and Empress have imposed upon themselves. He bewails the fact:
"It's perfectly deplorable! They've gradually created a void about themselves; no one goes near them now. The Empress's health has given them an excuse to give up even family parties. Why, it's quite a business for a Grand Duke or Grand Duchess to get an audience of Their Majesties. Apart from the Emperor's official relations with his ministers, no voice from outside ever reaches this house. As I was coming out the other day, I saw the Vyrubova going in. I sadly reflected: there goes their usual company, their only company. That's what the Court of Russia---once so brilliant and gay---has come to!"
"I was under the impression that even in the preceding reign the Court had lost all its gaiety and splendour."
"Yes, but nothing compared to what it's like now! It's quite true that Alexander III and Marie Feodorovna, who were very simple in their tastes, were only too glad to extend their visits at Gatchina. But from autumn to Easter there were splendid balls and concerts at the Winter Palace, not to mention private receptions in the Anitchkov Palace. Grand Dukes and Grand Duchesses, the diplomatic corps, generals, ministers and high officials were continually being invited to the imperial table. Quite frequently the sovereigns accepted invitations to supper with ambassadors and members of the Russian aristocracy such as the Bariatinskys, Balachovs, Cheremetievs, Orlovs, Kotchubeys and Yussupovs . . . . . Of course, at Gatchina court life was much more quiet and simple. A minimum of ceremonial!
"The sovereigns considered the sumptuous apartments built for the Emperor Paul much too imposing for their liking; they lived on the ground floor in a suite of small, low rooms, narrow, badly decorated and furnished, and extremely uncomfortable. Alexander III, who was a giant, could touch the ceiling with his hand.
"I remember going there once on a call of which I have amusing recollections. I was then a very young attaché of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. I had been sent to make a list of presents Their Majesties were giving the Danish Court on the occasion of some marriage; they had had them brought to Gatchina. I went to the palace and was handed over to the Empress's first chambermaid, who took me straight into Marie Feodorovna's own room. All the presents were set out on a table. I had soon made my list. Then I had a look round and innocently expressed my surprise at finding my sovereigns so poorly lodged: said I to the chambermaid: 'Why have Their Majesties chosen this room? ' She put her fingers to her lips and replied---'Because they can't find anything more ugly and uncomfortable.'"
Tuesday, August 10, 1915.
Bulgaria and the Teutonic powers are becoming more and more intimate. A syndicate of German and Austro-Hungarian banks has just opened a credit of 120,000,000 francs for the Bulgarian Treasury. Simultaneously Radoslavov has announced through his official Press that the recent victories of the German army in Poland have "broken Russia's back," and the whole political edifice of the Entente is about to collapse.
Friday, August 13, 1915.
The leader---and a very energetic leader---of "National Liberalism," Brantchaninov, ex-officer of the guard and Prince Gortchakov's son-in-law, asked me yesterday to receive him for a long and confidential talk.
I had him here this afternoon, and accustomed though I am to his lugubrious outlook, I was very much struck with the grave, set and melancholy expression of his face.
"I've never been so anxious," he said. "Russia is in peril of death. Never before in her history has she been in such great danger. She has had the German virus in her veins for two centuries, and now it's killing her. The only thing that can save her now is a national revolution."
"A revolution in time of war! You're not thinking of that!"
"Yes, indeed, I am. The revolution, as I see and desire it, would be a violent release of all the dynamic forces of the nation, a sublime resurrection of all Slav energies. After a few days of unavoidable troubles, perhaps even a month of disorder and paralysis, Russia would rise again with a grandeur you cannot imagine. Then you'd see what the moral resources of the Russian nation are! It has inexhaustible reserves of courage, enthusiasm and magnanimity. It's the greatest centre of idealism in the world!"
"I don't doubt it, but the Russian nation also has the terrible seed of social disintegration and national dislocation. You tell me that a revolution would mean not more than a month at most of disorder and paralysis. How can you tell? One of your compatriots, as intelligent and sagacious as anyone I know, confided to me the other day how horribly alarmed he was at the menace of a revolution. 'With us,' he said, 'revolution can only mean destruction and devastation. If God does not avert it, it will be equally terrible and interminable. Ten years of anarchy!' He supported his prognostication by practical and psychological arguments which seemed to me convincing. You can imagine that in the light of that prophecy I have my doubts about your so-called national revolution."
But this did not prevent him from continuing to extol the magical regenerative effects he expects from a popular rising.
"It's at the top, the head, we must strike first." he said.
"The Emperor could be maintained on his throne, for though he's weak-willed, he's patriotic enough at heart. But the Empress and her sister, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, Abbess of Moscow, must be shut up in some convent in the Urals; that's what one of our great Tsars of old would have done with them. Then the whole Potsdam Court, the coterie of Baltic barons and the Vyrubova-cum-Rasputin camarilla must be banished to the depths of Siberia. Lastly, the Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaievitch must immediately give up his post as generalissimo. . . . "
"The Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaievitch! Do you suspect his patriotism? Don't you consider him Russian and anti-German enough? What next? Why, I like to regard him as the champion of Holy Russia, orthodox, autocratic and nationalist Russia!"
"I'll grant you that he is a patriot and a man of iron will, but he's in no way equal to his task. He's not a leader, but an ikon. What we need is a leader."
He concluded with a picture---a picture only too accurate---of the army:
"It is still splendid as regards heroism and self-denial. But it has lost its faith in victory; it feels itself sacrificed beforehand, like animals led to the slaughter. One day, quite soon, perhaps, there will be utter discouragement, mere passive submission. It will go on retiring indefinitely; there'll be no fight or resistance left in it. When that day comes our German gang will triumph. We shall be compelled to make peace---and what a peace!"
I argued that the military situation, bad though it may be, is anything but desperate, that the national movement, of which the Duma has taken charge, is well calculated to inspire confidence, and that with perseverance, method and energy all the mistakes of the past can yet be redeemed.
"No!" he exclaimed, with a fierce, dark look. "No, no! The Duma is not equal to a struggle with the official or occult forces at the disposal of the German party. I'll bet you that within two months it will be reduced to impotence or dissolved. It's the whole political system that has to be changed. Our last chance of salvation is in a national coup d'état. The situation is far graver than you think, Ambassador. Do you know what was said to me only an hour ago by the Octobrist leader, the President of the Central Committee of Industrials, Alexander Ivanovitch Gutchkov, a man to whom you would certainly not deny foresight or courage? With tears in his eyes he said to me: 'Russia is lost. All hope has gone!' "
Saturday, August 14, 1915.
To-day's sitting of the Duma has been occupied by a grave and pathetic debate.
The subject under discussion was the creation of a munitions Committee to be placed over the Ministry of War. The debate gradually widened out and developed into an attack on the regime.
It was Adjemov, the deputy for Novocherkassk and one of the most impassioned speakers of the "Cadet" party, who applied the match to the powder:
"From the beginning of the war public opinion has fully realized the character and scale of the struggle; it has understood that unless the whole country was organized victory was impossible. But the Government, on the other hand, has never understood it, and when public opinion has made the situation clear it has refused to understand it and contemptuously turned away all who came with offers of help. The fact is that the War Ministry had its official contractors; orders were kept in the family; there was a whole system of favours, preferences and privileges. The result is that the country, far from being organized, has been thrown into the ghastly disorder Now, at last, the Government realizes that without the help of all our social institutions our armies cannot be victorious; it admits that wholesale reform is necessary and that it must be carried through by us. That, gentlemen, is a victory for public opinion; it is also the lesson of this terrible epoch. Mr. Lloyd George said recently in the House of Commons that the Germans, in showering shell upon our soldiers, were breaking the chains of the Russian people. It is the literal truth. The Russian people is now free and about to organize itself for victory!"
This peroration was greeted by a storm of cheering on the benches of the Left and the Centre.
Excited by this thundery atmosphere, the socialist deputy Tchenkeli, bounded on to the tribune and fulminate against "the tyranny of Tsarism which has brought Russia to the abyss." But he was soon indulging in such insults that the President refused to allow him to continue. In any case his personal attacks have produced considerable ill-feeling among the Centre and Left parties, whose liberalism is still monarchical.
The debate resumed its full scale with the great Moscow lawyer, Basil Maklakov. In a powerful argument he demonstrated the necessity of creating a Munitions Committee, outside the War Ministry, and entrusting the higher direction of the technical services to a Director-General, who should be responsible to this Committee. In so doing he was attacking that omnipotence of the bureaucracy which is the very heart and soul of autocracy. After showing that "Russia is the perfect type of a state in which men are not in their right place," he continued:
"Most of the administrative appointments are scandalous and a challenge to public opinion. Yet when a mistake is admitted, as is occasionally the case, it is impossible to put it right: the prestige of sovereign power does not permit that. The new Government, whose task it is to conquer Germany, will soon realize that it is far more difficult to conquer officialdom. . . .
"In the serious times through which we are passing it is essential to put an end to all this. The country is exhausting itself in sacrifice. We, its representatives, are also making many sacrifices; we are postponing many of our demands and keeping a tight rein on our anger. Forgetting our grievances and legitimate hatreds, we are helping everything we used to fight against, and it gives us the right to demand that the Government shall act in the same way towards us, rise above all considerations of party or personal feeling and adopt one motto and one motto only: The right men in the right place! "
The Right, thoroughly uncomfortable but still patriotic, and forced to recognize that the vices of bureaucracy are ruining Russia, voted with the majority for the creation of a Munitions Committee.
Henceforth issue is joined between the bureaucratic caste and the representatives of the nation. Will they take a lofty view of the common interest and make up their quarrel? The whole future of Russia depends upon the answer.
By an unexpected development this exciting sitting included by way of epilogue, a moving tribute to Poland. And it was Purishkevitch, the fiery deputy of the Extreme Right, a fanatical russificator, whose remorse-stricken conscience drove him to the language the occasion required:
It would be an unpardonable sin against the Russian state and Russian honour not to recognize in this House what the Poles have done and are doing for us. Who could say all that they have suffered and endured to help us to victory! Yet they might have taken up another attitude. The Baltic peoples, for example, races for which Russia has done so much, have shown us the blackest ingratitude. The Poles, on the other hand, though they can charge us with many wrongs towards them, have proved themselves among the most loyal and stalwart defenders of the country. And now, alas! the Russian armies have had to abandon Warsaw, the sanctuary of the Polish soul. Adam Mickiewicz's words come to mind involuntarily: Shall we find among us the magic word that can chase away despair, shake off the heavy burden from our hearts, dry the stream of tears upon our cheeks and gloriously give us back all that is dead? . . . But the Poles are not giving way to despair. There are no tears on their cheeks, but in their hearts there is an even deeper hatred of the common foe, an even greater faith in ultimate victory. Then let us now bless that glorious day to come when unified Slavism will triumph. May it bring us, with the re-establishment of our prestige, the realization of that desire which is so dear to the heart of Poland---the autonomy of the Polish people under the sceptre of the Tsar."
Sunday, August 18, 1915.
Yesterday the Germans carried the outer lines covering Kovno, between the Niemen and the Esia. Simultaneously they have crossed the Bug at Dragiczin, thus piercing the Russian lines between the Nurzec and the Narev.
This evening I dined at Tsarskoïe-Selo with the Grand Duke Paul.
After interrogating me anxiously about the progress of the German offensive in Lithuania, Countess Hohenfelsen said to me:
"I wanted to give you a family party, with the Grand Duke and my children alone, but when the Empress heard you were dining with us she suggested to Madame Vyrubova to get herself invited too, so that she could ask you what you think of the situation."
Madame Vyrubova has not yet recovered from her terrible accident on January 15, and she arrived on crutches. She is very much fatter owing to having been confined to bed so long. She was dressed in the plainest and most provincial style. Round her neck was a string of pearls not worth a thousand roubles. No royal favourite ever looked more unpretentious.
I affected optimism during the meal, when the conversation was heavy and disjointed.
On rising from table, Madame Vyrubova asked me to sit down and talk to her. After producing a deep sigh from the recesses of her capacious bosom, she wailed with her full, soft lips:
"Oh, what dreadful times we're living in, Monsieur l'Ambassadeur! Every day we get bad news, and every day it gets worse! . . . Their Majesties are very sad and anxious! When they heard that I was dining in your company this evening they commissioned me to ask you your real and honest opinion about the misfortunes that have overtaken us. It is a service they expect of you as a friend. What message can I take them from you? Are you really as confident as you seemed to be just now, during dinner? I've promised the Empress to give her your answer this very night."
"I will admit that what I said went far beyond what I really think; but I have no right to say anything different, even to close personal friends. . . . In my heart of hearts I am very uneasy, and I can see more bad times coming. But I retain my confidence in the future because it seems to me that the Emperor has recently had a series of excellent inspirations. The declarations his ministers have just read to the Duma in his name correspond so entirely with my own ideas that I see nothing to add to, or subtract from them. All I desire is that His Majesty should firmly keep to this course, the great national course, the great historic course in which Russia has always found salvation in the hour of danger."
Madame Vyrubova followed all this very closely. At times she echoed my words in a stammering, subdued voice, as if to engrave them more deeply on her memory. She made no personal comment and I felt as if I were talking into a phonograph.
I then enlarged on the munitions question and the splendid programme which the Zemstvos, municipalities and private industries aim at realizing in order to create technical equipment adequate for the needs of the army. By way of conclusion I vigorously asserted the necessity of allowing the country to co-operate with the Government:
"The strength of Russia has always lain in the intimate association of the sovereign and the people. The great Tsars of old were not only collectors of Russian soil: at critical moments they were collectors of Russian souls also. In following the tradition of his ancestors, the Emperor Nicholas has taken a noble view of his duty. Tell him that I beg him henceforth to set this duty above all others. In my eyes it is the one critical essential of victory."
"Yes, yes," she murmured with her thick tongue, "I'll tell Their Majesties exactly what you say."
At half-past nine a servant announced Madame Vyrubova's carriage.
Monsieur l'Ambassadeur, may I ask you one last question, the Empress told me on no account to forget? Do you think the Germans will come to Petrograd? It would be horrible!"
"The Germans at Petrograd!" I cried. "Why, they are more than five hundred versts away! Besides, there are the Pskov lines and in any case we shall soon have the autumn mud and winter snows. And by the spring I confidently anticipate that the Russian army will be resuming a victorious offensive."
After thanking me very warmly, she went out on her crutches. As she was leaving, I observed her thick, gleaming hair, narrow skull, fat, red neck, clammy back, huge thighs---a mound of warm and ample flesh. I am horrified to think that anyone so thoroughly mediocre, so lacking in physical and mental refinement, can have any influence in times like these on the destinies of Russia!
When the Grand Duke, Countess Hohenfelsen and I were alone once more, I told them what I had just said to Madame Vyrubova.
In accents of terror the Grand Duke asked me:
"Aren't you very alarmed at the situation at home?. . . These debates in the Duma are perfectly shocking! We're heading straight for revolution! The first steps have been taken! . . . Don't you feel that the Emperor and Empress are marked down already?"
"No, I don't think either the Emperor or Empress is actually menaced, though the public is exasperated with the Empress. In fact I know some people who are talking of nothing less than shutting her up in a convent in the Urals or Siberia."
"What! Shut the Empress up in a convent! . . . Do they think the Emperor will let anyone touch his wife? They can't! So the next thing is to kill the Emperor and overthrow the dynasty. . . . And what will they put in its place? The Russian nation is incapable of governing itself: it has no political education. Nine-tenths of the population cannot read or write. The working classes are corrupted through and through with anarchism; all that the peasants think about is dividing up the estates. You can overthrow a political system in that way but you can't set up a Government in its place!"
Then, as if his feelings were too much for him, he strode up and down the room several times without uttering a word. At length he stopped in front of me, crossed his arms and said, with his eyes flashing horror:
"If revolution breaks out, its barbarity will exceed anything ever known. . . . It will be hellish. . . . Russia won't survive it!"
About half-past ten I motored back to Petrograd. A chilly mist, autumn's herald, enveloped the huge plain in which the capital is set. Gloomy thoughts possessed my mind. How often have I brought back gloomy thoughts from Tsarskoïe-Selo?
Wednesday, August 18, 1915.
This evening the Germans entered Kovno, after carrying the fortress by storm.
At the confluence of the Vistula and the Bug they have carried the outer forts of Novo-Georgievsk.
Further south they are approaching Brest-Litovsk.
The capture of Kovno has resulted in terrible agitation in the lobbies of the Duma; the disaster is put down to the incapacity of the Grand Duke Nicholas; treachery on the part of the German party is alleged.
Thursday, August 19, 1915.
This morning Sazonov has the fevered look and pallid hue of bad times:
"Come and listen to what I've just heard from Sofia," he said. "Not that I'm the least bit surprised."
He read me a telegram from Savinsky telling him that, judging by a confidential report which could be relied on, the Bulgarian Government is henceforth determined to support the Teutonic powers and attack Serbia.
Friday, August 20, 1915.
The fortress of Novo-Georgievsk, the last Russian rampart in Poland, is in the hands of the Germans. The whole garrison, approximately 85,000 men, has been captured.
My Japanese colleague, Motono, who has just spent a few days in Moscow, has satisfied himself that the public there is very sound on the war: there is determination to go through with the struggle to the bitter end, anticipatory acceptance of the greatest sacrifices, absolute confidence in victory---in a word all the sentiments of 1812.
Sunday, August 22, 1915.
Rasputin has not stayed long in his Siberian village. He has been back three days and has already had several long talks with the Empress.
The Emperor is at the front.
Monday, August 23, 1915.
Yesterday the Russians evacuated the fortress of Osowiec, on the Bobr.
The Austro-Germans are advancing swiftly along the right bank of the Bug. Most of the works defending Brest-Litovsk are now in their hands.
Tuesday, August 24, 1915.
One of my agents, L-----, whom I strongly suspect of being a member of the Okhrana (though, if so, he will be all the better informed), tells me that the leader of the "Labour" group in the Duma, the eloquent and impetuous lawyer Alexander Feodorovitch Kerensky, recently called a conference at his house of representatives of the other Socialist groups, with a view to examining the chances of active intervention which might be open to the leaders of the proletariat if further military disasters compelled the Imperial Government to make peace.
Not that the conference came to any practical decision. But it settled on two important points of the programme which the Socialist party will inscribe on its banners when peace comes: (1) the immediate institution of universal suffrage in Russia; (2) the unfettered right of nations to decide their own lot.
1. His father, the Grand Duke Constantine Nicholaievitch (born 1827, died 1892), played an important part in the reign of Alexander II. Being open-minded and liberal, he did much to bring about the abolition of serfdom in 1861. He also did what he could to draw his brother into the path of constitutional reform. And for a moment it was thought that Tsarism, as practised by men like Milutin, Abaza, Prince Tcherkazky and Samarin. was at last about to evolve towards the conception of a modern state. But the Polish rising in 1863, and the appearance of Nihilism a few years later, ruined the reputation of the Grand Duke Constantine. Henceforth he devoted himself exclusively to his duties as Admiral of the Fleet.
2. Kropotkin is mistaken on this point. The bells of the fortress, hung in the eighteenth century, cannot play the national anthem, " Boje tsaria kranie," which was composed by Prince Lvov in the reign of Nicholas I; at midday and midnight they chime an old hymn, Kol slaven nach Gospod v Sion. . . ." "How glorious is Our Lord in Sion. . ."
3. He was not made a Duke until 1862.
Volume II, Chapter Two
Table of Contents