By Maurice Paléologue
JANUARY 29-FEBRUARY 21, 1917.
Allied conference at Petrograd: arrival of the French, British and Italian plenipotentiaries; the Government of the Republic sends a former President of the Council, Doumergue, and General de Castelnau.---The programme of the conference is too vague.---The plenipotentiaries presented to the Emperor; exchange of trivialities. Nicholas II's notion of his autocracy.---General Gourko acquaints the conference with the strategic intentions for 1917 of the High Command; great offensives to be postponed. Disappointment of the delegates.---The Emperor gives Doumergue a private audience; he consents to all the guarantees on the right bank of the Rhine which France may think it her duty to exact from Germany.---Banquet at Alexander Palace.---Slow progress of the conference: "We are wasting time." Deep impression made on the moujiks by Rasputin's murder; the first symptoms of legendary transfiguration.---End of the conference; poor results.---In my last conversation with Doumergue I beg him to tell the President of the Republic of my great anxiety about the internal situation in Russia.
Monday, January 29, 1917.
The French, British and Italian delegates to the allied conference arrived in Petrograd this morning.
It has only taken them three days to come from Port Romanov, and their train is the first to traverse the Murman coast line from end to end.
Leaving General de Castelnau to the care of my military attaché, I took Doumergue to the Hotel de 1'Europe.
He asked me about the internal situation in Russia. I painted it without sparing the darker colours, and drew the inference that it was necessary to hasten military events.
"On the Russian front," I said, "time is not working for us now. The public does not care about the war. All the government departments and the machinery of administration are getting hopelessly and progressively out of gear. The best minds are convinced that Russia is walking straight into the abyss. We must make haste."
"I didn't think the mischief had got so far."
"You'll be able to see for yourself." He then told me in confidence that the Government of the Republic is anxious to secure the Emperor's express promise that the peace treaty shall include a clause giving France full liberty to decide the fate of the territories on the left bank of the Rhine.
I reminded him that the question of the Rhine Provinces was settled between France and Russia long ago, at any rate so far as the "war map" made it possible.
"In November 1914 the Emperor told me on his own initiative that he unreservedly gave us the left bank of the Rhine; he said so again on the 13th March last year. What more could we want?"
"But Monsieur Briand thinks we ought to bind the Russian Government by a written and detailed record . . . We cannot be too careful in so serious a matter."
After a private luncheon at the embassy, I took Doumergue and General de Castelnau to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, where the conference was to hold a preliminary and official sitting to lay the foundations for its work.
The following representatives were present:
Russian: Pokrovsky, Foreign Minister; the Grand Duke Sergei Michaïlovitch, Inspector-General of Artillery; M. Woynovski, Minister of Communications; M. Bark, Finance Minister; General Bielaïev, War Minister; General Gourko, Chief of Staff to the High Command; Admiral Grigorovitch, Minister for the Navy; M. Sazonov, who has just been appointed ambassador in London, and M. Neratov, assistant to the Minister for Foreign Affairs
French: M. Doumergue, Minister for the Colonies General de Castelnau and myself:
English: Lord Milner, minister without portfolio, Sir George Buchanan; Lord Revelstoke and General Sir Henry Wilson:
Italian: Signor Scialoja, minister without portfolio; the Marchese Carlotti and General Count Ruggieri.
At the very outset it appeared that the governments of the western Powers had only given their delegates vague instructions; no directing principle to co-ordinate the allied effort and no joint programme to hasten the common victory. After a prolonged exchange of generalities, the emptiness of which everyone felt, we modestly agreed to say that the recent conferences in Paris and Rome had sufficiently defined the object of the present meeting. We next decided that questions of a political nature should be examined by the chief delegates and ambassadors; plans of operations should be settled by the generals; a technical committee should look into questions of matériel, munitions, transport, etc.; final decisions to be taken by the full conference.
Tuesday, January 30, 1917.
The Emperor will receive the members of the conference to-morrow; the first official sitting has therefore been fixed for the day after to-morrow.
Official luncheon of forty covers at the embassy.
The afternoon was spent in drives and calls.
Bratiano, the President of the Rumanian Council, has postponed his departure from Petrograd; he will participate officially in the labours of the conference whenever the interests of his country are involved.
At eight o'clock state banquet at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Prince Nicholas Golitzin, President of the Council, was present; but simply as a silent figurehead. He carries the heavy burden of responsibility which has been thrust upon him with utter indifference and complete detachment. But so long as politics were not mentioned, his replies were courtesy itself.
Wednesday, January 31, 1917.
At eleven o'clock the Emperor received the members of the conference at the smaller palace at Tsarskoïe-Selo.
Court etiquette prescribes that ambassadors take precedence of their missions, so that the order of presentation is determined by their seniority.
The three delegations were thus arranged in a circle in the order: English---Italian---French.
The scene I was witnessing had an eloquence all its own.
The English mission comes first not only in virtue of Buchanan's seniority but in the matter of numbers also. It has two civil delegates, Lords Milner and Revelstoke, whereas the Italian and French missions have only one. Scialoja and Doumergue; it also has six generals to show against the Italian and French two each. Still, from the military point of view, General de Castelnau undisputably gives us pre-eminence in moral and technical prestige: his brilliant services during this war, the glorious death of his three sons, the Christian stoicism of his submission to fate, the nobility of his character and his greatness of soul cast a kind of halo round his brows.
Buchanan and Carletti presented their delegates in turn. Once more I noticed that the Emperor said hardly anything to the leaders, but gladly lingered to talk to guests of lower rank.
When my turn came, I presented Doumergue and heard the inevitable questions fall from the Emperor's lips:
"Have you had a pleasant journey? I hope you are not too tired? Is this your first visit to Russia?"
With a few more or less meaningless remarks about the Alliance, war and. victory, Doumergue made vain efforts to raise the tone of the conversation. Nicholas II cannot help liking him for his candour and friendly simplicity.
With General de Castelnau the Emperor was equally vague. He seemed to have no idea at all of his eminent services in France, and could not find a word to say about his three sons who were killed in battle.
After a few pleasant words to the junior officials and officers who form the suite of the French mission, Nicholas II withdrew, and the function was over.
As we were returning to Petrograd, I observed that Milner, Scialoja and Doumergue had been equally disappointed with the ceremony.
I could not help thinking to myself to what good use a monarch who really knew his business---someone like Ferdinand of Bulgaria---would have put such an event.
I can imagine the dexterous interplay of questions and insinuations, allusions and hints, confidences and compliments in which he would have revelled. But Nicholas II, as I have so often said, does not enjoy the exercise of power. If he jealously upholds his autocratic prerogatives, it is solely on mystical grounds. He never forgets that he has received his power from God Himself, and is always reminding himself that he will have to account for it in the valley of Josaphat. This notion of his sovereign function is the exact opposite of that which inspired Napoleon's famous remark to Roederer: "I myself love power; but I love it with an artist's love; I love it as a musician loves his violin, something from which to draw sounds, chords and harmonies!" Conscience, humanity, gentleness, honour---these, I think, are the outstanding virtues of Nicholas II. But the sacred spark is not in him.
Thursday, February 1, 1917.
I had Kokovtsov, Trepov, General Gourko, Doumergue and General de Castelnau to luncheon.
The talk was animated and candid, and for the occasion Kokovtsov put the mute on his only too well justified pessimism. Trepov spoke very frankly of the dangers of the internal crisis through which Russia is passing; but his speech, and perhaps even more his personality, exhale such an abundance of energy and authority that the evil seems easy to repair. General Gourko was even more impulsive than usual. Around me I could feel the bracing atmosphere which Doumergue and Castelnau have brought from France.
At three o'clock the conference met at the Marie Palace; we sat in the large rotunda room which looks out on Saint Isaac's Square.
Pokrovski presided; but his lack of experience in diplomatic affairs and his gentleness and modesty prevented him from steering the course of the discussion, which wandered aimlessly. There was talk about Greece, Japan, Serbia, America, Rumania, the Scandinavian countries, and so on; but all without logical sequence, dominating purpose or practical conclusions. Several times, Lord Milner, who was next to me, whispered impatiently in my ear.
"We are wasting time!"
The President next called upon the Chief of Staff of the High Command to address the assembly.
In a booming and jerky voice, General Gourko read us a string of questions on the conduct of military operations which he desired to put to the conference.
The first question amazed us. It was couched in these terms: "Are the campaigns of 1917 to have a decisive character? Or must we not abandon the hope of obtaining definitive results this year?"
All the French, English and Italian delegates protested warmly that vigorous, co-ordinated offensives must be launched on the various fronts at the earliest possible moment.
General Gourko informs us, however, that the Russian army will not be in a position to undertake a great offensive until it has been reinforced by the sixty new divisions the creation of which has recently been arranged. It will take many months, perhaps even a year, to form and train these divisions, and equip them with all the matériel they require. Between now and then the Russian army can only undertake minor operations, though they will be enough to pin the enemy down on the Eastern front.
The conference could not express an opinion on so grave a motive without the seasoned advice of the generals.
The other questions which General Gourko read to us were simply the corollary of the first, or else referred to technical problems, so the whole lot were sent for examination by the military committee.
Saturday, February 3, 1917.
To-day the Emperor received the heads of the delegates to the conference in private audience.
Doumergue advocated the necessity of accelerating the general offensives with great warmth.
The Emperor replied:
"I entirely agree with you."
I should have preferred an acquiescence which was less unqualified, an answer which had more light and shade and was flavoured, if need be, with a note of objection.
Doumergue then broached the topic of the right bank of the Rhine. He judiciously developed all the political, military and economic aspects of that grave problem which so to speak dominates our whole national history, as it was raised between France and Germany as early as the time of Lothair, and we may profitably reflect even now on the famous "Partition Treaty," signed at Verdun in 843.
Invoking His Majesty's statements to me on November 21, 1914 and March 13, 1916, he explained that the government of the Republic had decided to include the following demands and guarantees in the terms of peace to be imposed on Germany:
(1) Alsace-Lorraine to be returned to France; (2) its frontiers must extend at any rate to the limits of the ancient Duchy of Lorraine, in such a way as to incorporate the mining areas of that region in French territory; (3) the other territories on the left bank of the Rhine will be completely separated from Germany; (4) such of those territories as shall not be incorporated in French territory shall form an autonomous and neutralized state; French troops shall be garrisoned there until the guarantees, imposed by the Allies to secure general peace, shall have been fulfilled.
Each of these points was examined in the greatest detail and Doumergue obtained the Emperor's unqualified assent.
Doumergue then said that the Allies should jointly agree in denying the Hohenzollerns the right to speak in the name of Germany when the time for negotiations arrives. This is an idea the Emperor has long cherished and mentioned to me several times; he promised Doumergue to have the matter examined from the historical and juridical points of view by his Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Something was then said about the future of the Alliance., the fraternal feelings which unite France and Russia now and for evermore, etc., and the audience came to a close.
At eight o'clock state banquet at Alexander Palace. As a matter of fact, the state part of it was displayed only in the liveries., lights and plate, for the menu was simplicity itself, a thoroughly bourgeois simplicity which contrasted forcibly with the ancient and far-famed splendour of the imperial cuisine, but was dictated by the ethical conventions of a time of war:
Potage crème d'orge.
Fruites glacés de Gatchina.
Longe de veau Marengo.
Poulets de grain rôtis.
Salade de concombres.
The Tsar looked as he does on his good days; he feared, I am told, that the delegates would give him unwanted advice on internal politics; he is now reassured on the point. The Tsarina is not well and remained in her room.
At table the Emperor had Buchanan on his right and Carlotti on his left. Count Fredericks, Minister of the Court, sat opposite His Majesty; I was on his right and had Prince Nicholas Golitzin, President of the Council, on my right.
The old and excellent Count Fredericks, who is almost worn out by his years, told me how greatly he suffered from the press attacks and drawing-room epigrams which accuse him of being a German:
"To begin with," he said, "my family is of Swedish not German origin; and besides it has been in the service of Russia for more than a century, in fact since the reign of Catherine the Great!"
The truth is that his family hailed from Swedish Pomerania and has supplied Russian autocracy with a long line of docile retainers. He is thus a very typical representative of the caste of "Baltic Barons" which have governed Russia since the reign of Anna Ivanovna, men who are all absolutely devoted to their sovereigns but have little in common with the Russian spirit. Nearly all of them have relations in the military or civil service of Germany. With them, their attachment to the Romanov dynasty is not merely a. family tradition and obligation it is their very reason raison d'être.
So I was not exactly surprised at the naive suggestion Count Fredericks put forward over dessert:
"The conference must agree together that after the war the Allies shall come to each other's aid in case of internal disorders. We are all interested in fighting revolution!"
He is back in the days of the Holy Alliance; only a century behind the times O sancta et senilis simplicitas!
Dinner ended at last and we went into the next room where coffee was served.
The Emperor lit a cigarette and passed from group to group. Lord Milner, Scialoja, Doumergue, General de Castelnau, Lord Revelstoke, General Ruggieri, General Wilson and the three ambassadors all had a kind word from him, but nothing more; he did not linger to talk to anyone.
While these dull conversations were in progress, the Empress received the chief delegates in turn in her room. She was particularly gracious to Doumergue and remarked at the conclusion of their talk: "Prussia must be punished!"
Shortly before ten, Nicholas II returned to the centre of the room and with the kindliest of smiles took leave of the company.
Sunday, February 4, 1917.
On the 1st February Germany decided to extend the strict application of the maritime blockade to the whole coast-line of Europe. The act is a ruthless cancellation of the solemn assurances which America obtained from the German Chancellor that naval warfare should be restricted after the Lusitania, Ancona and Sussex had been torpedoed.
The reply of the Federal Government has been prompt. Yesterday, President Wilson asked the Senate for authority to employ any means which may become necessary to protect American ships and citizens in the exercise of their peaceful activities. He concluded with a noble declaration that "we are not thinking only of defending our material interests; we also desire to defend the fundamental rights of humanity, without which there can be no civilization."
With the approval of the Senate, Gerard, the American Ambassador in Berlin, has been immediately recalled.
The Russian public has favourably received this important piece of news, but the impression it conveys is but vague and superficial. For Russia knows nothing of America; she does not even suspect what a great drama has been taking place in the conscience of the American people during the last twenty months.
Monday, February 5, 1917.
My luncheon party was made up of Doumergue, Rodzianko (President of the Duma), Bratiano, several members of the Council of Empire, including Count Alexis Bobrinsky and Michael Stakhovitch, the financier Putilov, etc.
With the exception of Putilov, who remained wrapped in a significant silence, all my Russian guests professed an optimism which they were very far from feeling only a few days ago. As a matter of fact, the same current of optimism has been travelling through Petrograd society ever since the arrival of the foreign delegates. But alas! the moment they leave, the barometer will fall to its lowest point again. No nation is so easily influenced or so sensitive as the Russian.
Bratiano bears the misfortunes of his country and his crushing load of personal responsibility with high-souled resolution. Adversity has made him greater.
This evening there was a formal dinner of a hundred and fifty covers at the Military Club. The first qualification of him who would take part in a diplomatic conference is to have a good digestion. As we came away, I repeated to Lord Milner the remark he made the other day:
"We are wasting time!"
Wednesday, February 7, 1917.
The work of the conference is dragging on to no purpose. No practical result has emerged from all the diplomatic verbiage. To take one example, we are trying to find a formula asking Japan to accelerate her assistance!
The technical munitions and transport committee alone is doing anything useful, but the requirements of the Russian General Staff exceed anything we had anticipated and its demands even exceed its requirements. To my way of thinking, it is not so much a matter of knowing what Russia needs as of ascertaining what she is capable of putting to good use. What point is there in sending her guns, machine-guns, shells and aeroplanes, which would be so valuable to us, if she has neither the means of getting them to the front nor the will to take advantage of them?
There is a perfect understanding between General de Castelnau and General Gourko. General de Castelnau insists that the Russian offensive must be launched about the 15th April, so that it will synchronize with the French offensive; but General Gourko does not think it possible to embark on an operation on any great scale before the 15th May! . . .
Thursday, February 8, 1917.
I have been trying to give Doumergue the fullest possible insight into the Russian world by introducing him to men who can be regarded as the most representative. This morning I invited certain people to meet him at my table: General Polivanov and the great mathematician Vassiliev, both liberal members of the Council of Empire, Miliukov, Maklakov and Shingarev, leaders of the "Cadet" Party in the Duma.
The conversation, which was quite unrestricted and very animated, was mainly on the subject of internal politics.
At one moment, Doumergue thought that my guests were a little too impulsive, a shade too eager to take the field against tsarism, and was advocating patience.
At the very mention of the word "patience," Miliukov and Maklakov burst out:
"We've had quite enough patience! . . . Our patience is utterly exhausted! Besides, if we don't act soon, the masses won't listen to us any longer."
Maklakov went on to remind us of Mirabeau's remark: "Beware of asking for time! Disaster never gives it!"
Doumergue continued, very wisely:
"I'm talking about patience, not resignation. I realize your anxieties and annoyances, and the extreme difficulty of your position. But whatever you do, put the war first!"
I noticed that Maklakov, who is a native of Moscow, deputy for that city, and, the typical Muscovite, never says "Petrograd," but always "Petersburg." I asked him why.
"Because 'Petersburg' is its real name; it's a German city and has no claim to a Slav name. I'll call it 'Petrograd' when it deserves it."
Friday, February 9, 1917.
Prince O----- has just come from Kostrovna, where he has large farming and manufacturing interests. The old city of Kostrovna, which rises on the left bank of the Volga between Yaroslavl and Nijny-Novgorod, is rich in memories. In ancient days it was the refuge and citadel of the Romanovs, and in the famous monastery of Saint Ipatiev it preserves the remains of the heroic peasant Sussianin, whose story is commemorated in Life for the Tsar. It is one of the provinces of the Empire where dynastic loyalty is most intense and the hereditary tendencies, social habits and national sentiments of the Russian people are preserved in all their integrity. I am therefore somewhat anxious to know the state of public feeling in that region. I could not possibly have found a better source of information than Prince O-----, as he is splendid at talking to moujiks. In reply to my questions he said:
"Things are going badly! They're tired of the war they don't understand anything about it now except that victory is impossible. And yet they haven't clamoured for peace so far. I've seen a melancholy and resigned discontent in all quarters. Rasputin's murder has made a vivid impression on the masses."
"Oh! What sort of an impression?"
"It's a very curious phenomenon and thoroughly Russian. To the moujiks Rasputin has become a martyr. He was a man of the people; he let the Tsar hear the voice of the people; he defended the people against the Court folk, the pridvorny. So the pridvorny killed him! That's what's being said in all the isbas."
"But the public in Petrograd was overjoyed when Grishka's death became known! Why, people rushed to the churches to light candles at the ikon of Saint Dimitri because they then thought that it was the Grand Duke Dimitri who had killed the dog."
"In Petrograd men knew all about Rasputin's orgies, and to gloat over his death was one way of showing hostility to the Emperor and Empress. But I have an idea that, speaking generally, all the moujiks of Russia think the same as those of Kostrovna . . ."
So the process of transforming Rasputin into a hero of legend has already begun in the mind of the Russian nation.
Saturday, February 10, 1917.
Bratiano left Petrograd this evening and is returning straight to Jassy.
When he came to say good-bye to me, I found him in a state of mind which does him credit; in other words, calm, grieved and resolute. No futile recriminations and no attempt at self-justification. He sees and judges the situation as a practical man should. He said he was very satisfied with the numerous conversations he has had with the Emperor's ministers and the members of the inter-allied conference. He is particularly pleased at the confident and cordial attention General Gourko has shown him: he is too shrewd not to have discovered that the whole policy of Russia towards Rumania is now determined directly by the Russian High Command and he has very cleverly established the closest touch with the Chief of the General Staff. Yet I cannot find that in his conferences with General Gourko any practical conclusion has been reached on the two points which are exceedingly urgent at the present moment---the supply of food to the civil population of Moldavia and the resumption of operations in the northern Carpathians and the Danube region.
I am told that during his visit to Petrograd, Bratiano has sounded the Emperor as to his ultimate consent to the marriage of the Grand Duchess Olga to Prince Carol, the presumptive heir. The idea of this union has been mooted several times before. The Emperor's answer was quite encouraging: "I shall have no objection to the marriage if my daughter and Prince Carol find they suit each other."
Sunday, February 11, 1917.
Skvortsov, an important official of the Holy Synod and editor of the religious journal, Kolokol, has, confirmed what Prince O----- told me the day before yesterday about the impression which the Rasputin murder has made on the rural masses:
"The peasants," he said, "have been greatly moved by it; Grigori was a moujik, one of themselves, and they thought it quite natural that the imperial palace should be open to him. Their explanation of the crime is therefore a simple one: the enemies of the people killed the staretz because he pleaded the people's cause before the Tsar. The impressions of the higher social classes, my clerical clientèle and the merchants and officials, pomiechtchiks, are no better: the Rasputin murder is considered as an evil omen. You know how superstitious we Russians are. All I can tell you is that everyone is hawking round the prophecy which Grigori often uttered to Their Majesties: If I die or you desert me, you will lose your son and your crown within six months."
"Did he really prophesy that?"
"Yes, indeed, Ambassador! I've heard him say so myself a score of times and more! Only a few days before his death, he repeated it to His Eminence the Metropolitan Pitirim."
Monday, February 12, 1917.
Taking advantage of the fact that the generals have gone on a tour of inspection to the Galician front, the civil delegates to the conference have paid a visit to Moscow.
Tuesday, February 13, 1917.
Eleven workmen, members of the Central Committee of Military Industries, have just been arrested on a charge of "plotting a revolutionary movement with the object of proclaiming a republic."
Arrests of this kind are common enough in Russia, but in the ordinary way the public hears nothing about them. After a secret trial, the accused are sent to a state gaol or banished to the depths of Siberia. The press never mentions the matter, and quite frequently even their families do not know what has happened to their missing relative. The silence in which these summary convictions are wrapped has a good deal to do with the tragic notoriety of the Okhrana. But this time the element of mystery has been dispensed with. A sensational communiqué informs the press of the arrest of the twelve workmen. This is Protopopov's way of showing how busy he is in saving tsarism and society.
Wednesday, February 14, 1917.
Acting on instructions received from Briand, I have just sent the following letter to Pokrovski:
I have the honour to inform the Imperial Government that the Government of the Republic is proposing to incorporate the following territorial claims and guarantees in the terms of peace to be imposed on Germany:
(1) Alsace-Lorraine shall be returned to France; (2) its frontiers shall extend at the least to the limits of the former Duchy of Lorraine; they will be drawn in such a way as to provide for strategic necessities and include the whole of the coal basin in the valley of the Sarre in French territory; (3) the other territories on the left bank of the Rhine, which are now incorporated in the German Empire, shall be completely severed from Germany and liberated from any political and economic dependence upon her; (4) the territories on the left bank of the Rhine which are not incorporated in French territory shall form an autonomous and neutralized State; they will be occupied by French troops until the enemy States, shall have completely carried out all the terms and guarantees stipulated for in the peace treaty.
The Government of the Republic will therefore be glad to be able to count on the support of the Imperial Government in realizing its projects.
Pokrovski immediately replied that the Government of the Republic may count on the support of the Imperial Government in realizing its projects.
Friday, February 16, 1917.
The Rasputin party has survived Rasputin, but it is a body without a head. Though still very powerful from the political point of view, it has already lost much of its influence from the religious point of view, and the control of ecclesiastical affairs threatens to slip from its hands altogether before long.
With a view to recovering the leadership of the party, Raïev, the Procurator of the Holy Synod, has just despatched Monsignor Basil, the Bishop of Tchernigov and the fine flower of Rasputinism, to Petrograd. This prelate's mission will be to arrange with the Minister of the Interior to organize a moral propaganda service; in other words, police surveillance of the clergy.
Saturday, February 17, 1917.
One of the sights which has made the greatest impression on the members of the three allied missions since their arrival in Russia---and particularly during their excursion to Moscow---is the amount of traffic on the snow. The animated picture which both town and country offer in that respect has surprised them all.
In Western countries the snow never lies deep or for long at a time, and is simply an obstacle to movement; it blocks the streets and makes vehicular traffic difficult often enough, it actually paralyses economic activity.
In Russia it is quite otherwise. In spring thaws transform the Russian plain into a vast swamp which stretches from the Black Sea to the Baltic. In certain regions, such as that of the Pripet and middle Dnieper the mud lies five and six feet deep. But as soon as summer begins to warm the earth, the roads, which are not metalled, become quagmires and gullies with the slightest traffic; before long most of the highways are nothing but tracks, furrowed with ruts and a mass of holes. Towards the middle of September the ground becomes soft again and is transformed into a sticky mass once more. Under the autumn rains the boundless plain reverts to its character as a vast slough; villages are cut off from communication with each other; the railway stations, congested with goods, cannot distribute them to the surrounding districts. Then winter comes. The snow falls in heavy flakes; it accumulates, settles, hardens and lays a firm, flat carpet over the ground. Traffic by sleigh is organized at once. Everywhere life reawakens, and movement begins again over the infinite, white spaces.
Sunday, February 18, 1917.
General Berthelot, who is in command of the French Military Mission in Rumania, has just arrived in Petrograd to confer with General de Castelnau and General Gourko.
For the last four months it is General Berthelot who in practice has been directing the operations and reorganization of the Rumanian army. In the most thankless and desperate situations, he has impressed everyone by his prudent and methodical work, his calculated reasoning, his unshaken and infectious confidence and unruffled and ruthless energy. When, Rumania emerges from her present trials, he will have been one of the best agents of her resurrection.
Monday, February 19, 1917.
I gave a lunch to-day in honour of General Berthelot my guests were Doumergue, Pokrovski, Bark, General de Castelnau, Neratov, General Bielaiev, Polovtsov, General Yanin, etc.
On rising from table, Doumergue, Pokrovski, Bielaiev, Castelnau, Berthelot, Janin and I discussed the critical situation of Rumania. The impenetrable reserve behind which Pokrovski and Bielaïev took shelter confirms the impression left upon me by my last talk with Bratiano, an impression that the Russian High Command has now taken sole charge of Rumanian affairs and is anxious to keep the other allied Powers out of the business.
Tuesday, February 20, 1917.
Doumergue and General de Castelnau lunched at the embassy very privately to-day.
We conjured up memories of the days just before the war. Doumergue, then President of the Council and Minister for Foreign Affairs, was one of the first who saw, or rather confessed himself obliged to see, the threatening reality.
I reminded General de Castelnau of a very serious talk we had on the 26th November, 1913. At that time he was Deputy Chief of the General Staff. We had just been to a sitting of the Advisory Committee of the Superior Council of National Defence, of which I was a member in my capacity of director of political affairs. General Joffre had presided. When all the other members had left the room, I asked General Joffre and General de Castelnau to stay behind with me. Then I told them of the conversation the Emperor of Germany had had with the King of the Belgians a few days before, a conversation in which William II had solemnly said that he considered war was henceforth "inevitable and necessary." General Joffre listened to me in silence. When I had finished, his eyes lit up with a sinister glow; he raised his head; took a deep breath. Then he let his massive hand fall on Castelnau's shoulder and said in a calm and steady voice: It'll have to come this time, mon vieux!"
After luncheon, I questioned General de Castelnau about his impressions of his visit to the front and the value of the assistance we may expect from Russia."
"The morale of the men seemed to me excellent," he said, "the men are strong, high-spirited and full of courage; there is a frank, gentle look in their eyes which augurs well. But the High Command is badly organized; armament is totally inadequate and the transport service very defective. What is perhaps even more serious is the poor quality of the tactical instruction. They have not broken away from out-of-date methods; the Russian army is a year behind our armies in the West. It is incapable of carrying through an offensive on a large scale."
Wednesday, February 21, 1917.
After an interminable series of luncheons, dinners and receptions at the embassy, the Finance Ministry, the Franco-Russian Chamber of Commerce, the President of the Council's residence, the Town Council, the Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna's palace, the Yacht Club, etc., the foreign delegates are now returning westwards, via the ice-bound Arctic Ocean.
The results of this conference, which has been the subject of so much mystery---and likewise so much talk---are very poor. We have exchanged views about the blockade of Greece, the inadequacy of Japan's help, the prospective value of intervention by America, the critical position of Rumania and the necessity of closer and more practical allied co-operation; we have ascertained the colossal requirements of the Russian army in matériel and made joint arrangements to provide for them as soon as possible. That is all.
When Doumergue and General de Castelnau came to bid me good-bye, I gave them a message to take:
"Please tell the President of the Republic and the President of the Council that you have left me very anxious. A revolutionary crisis is at hand in Russia; it nearly broke out five weeks ago and is only postponed. Every day the Russian nation is getting more indifferent towards the war and the spirit of anarchy is spreading among all classes and even in the army. About the end of last October a very significant incident occurred in Petrograd; I reported it to Monsieur Briand. A strike broke out in the Vibori, quarter and as the police were very roughly handled by the workmen, two regiments which were in barracks in the vicinity, were sent for. These two regiments fired on the police. A division of Cossacks had to be hastily called in to bring the mutineers to their senses. So in case of a rising the authorities cannot count on the army. My conclusion is that time is no longer working for us, at any rate in Russia, and that we must henceforth take the defection of our ally into our calculations and draw all the inferences involved."
"I am just as pessimistic as yourself," replied Doumergue; "I shall certainly tell the President of the Republic and M. Briand all you say, and will confirm it myself."
Volume III, Chapter Eight
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