R. H. Bruce Lockhart
WAR AND PEACE
"Eine grosse Epoche hat das Jahrhundert geboren, aber
der grosse Moment findet ein kleines Geschlecht!'
(The century has given birth to a great epoch, but
the great moment finds a petty generation.)
MY recollections of those first war months in Moscow are remarkably vivid, although today in the light of after events they seem more like a strange dream than an actual experience. The contrast between 1914 and 1932 is too great. I have to shut my eyes to recall the enthusiasm of those early days. There in the patchwork of my memory I see again those moving scenes at the station: the troops, grey with dust and closely packed in cattle trucks; the vast crowd on the platform to wish them Godspeed; grave, bearded fathers, wives and mothers smiling bravely through their tears and bringing gifts of flowers and cigarettes; fat priests to bless the happy warriors. The crowd sways forward for a last handshake and a last embrace. There is a shrill whistle from the engine. Then, with many false starts, the overloaded train, as though reluctant to depart, crawls slowly out of the station and disappears in the grey twilight of the Moscow night. Silent and bare-headed, the crowd remains motionless until the last faint echo of the song of the men, who are never to return, has faded into nothing. Then, shepherded by the gendarmes, it files quietly out into the streets.
I come away with a hopefulness which overrides my better judgment. Here was a Russia which I had never known---a Russia inspired by a patriotism which seemed to have its roots deep down in the soil. It was, too, a sober Russia. The sale of vodka had been stopped, and an emotional religious fervour took the place of the squalid intoxication which in previous wars had characterised the departure of Russian soldiers.
Among the bourgeoisie there was the same enthusiasm. The wives of the rich merchants vied with each other in spending money on hospitals. There were gala performances at the State theatres in aid of the Red Cross. There was an orgy of national anthems. Every night at the opera and the ballet the Imperial orchestra played the national hymns of Russia, England, France and Belgium, while the audience stood at attention in a fervour of exalted patriotism. Later, especially when the number of Allied hymns assumed the dimensions of a cricket score, the fervour evaporated, and the heavy-paunched Muscovites groaned audibly at an ordeal which lasted over half an hour. But in those early weeks of 1914 Russian patriotism had much on which to feed itself. The beginning of the war, indeed, was all Russia, and, as the news of each Russian advance was made public, Moscow gave itself up to a full-throated rejoicing. If there were pessimists at that moment, their voice was not raised in the market-place. Revolution was not even a distant probability, although from the first day of the war every liberal-minded Russian hoped that victory would bring constitutional reforms in its train.
In St. Petersburg, it is true, these early Russian triumphs invoked covert sneers at the failure of the Franco-British effort. In drawing-rooms one heard whispers about English faint-heartedness, and pro-Germans spread slimy rumours about England's determination to fight until the last drop of Russian blood. In Moscow, however, the tongues of the slanderers were silent, and enthusiasm for the Russian victories was tempered by a generous sympathy for the difficulties of France and England.
Indeed, as far as Russia was concerned, the heart of the Alliance was in Moscow. If ever Bayley or I appeared in public, we received an ovation. At the "Bat" Nikita Baleieff would come before the curtain, point us out, and say: "Tonight we have with us the representatives of our Ally, England." The band would then play "God Save the King," and the whole audience stood up and cheered. We pretended to be bored by these unaccustomed attentions, vowed to each other that we would avoid them in future, and returned as frequently as discretion permitted. There is no limit to the vanity of the very Great, and Bayley and I were only two very ordinary mortals.
On September 10th we attended in full uniform a gala performance at the theatre in honour of the capture of Lemberg by the Russians. I went with sadness in my heart. The German armies were on the Marne, and the fate of Paris hung in the balance. My brothers were in France, and here was I taking part in the celebrations of a Russian victory. Inside the theatre the uniforms of the officers made a brilliant setting to the jewels and costly dresses of the women. The play was a Russian adaptation of Rostand's "L'Aiglon," and Bayley and I shared a box near the stage and directly opposite the box occupied by the French Consul-General. During the first act the Frenchman was called away. He remained absent for some time. When he came back, his manner was agitated. Then the curtain fell, but the lights did not go up. In an instant the atmosphere became electrical. "The Russians had won another victory. They had captured 100,000 prisoners. They had taken Przemysl." In the darkness rumour ran riot. Then the footlights went up again; the orchestra filed into their places, and a young girl of eighteen, the daughter of the President of the French Chamber of Commerce, came on to the stage. With her white dress, her face free of all make up, and her glorious golden hair, she looked like the Angel Gabriel. In her trembling hands she held a slip of paper.
The audience hushed itself in an expectant silence. Then, quivering with emotion and nervousness, the girl began to read: "The following official telegram has just been received from French headquarters." She stopped as if her tongue were chained. The tears streamed down her face.
Then, in a shrill crescendo, she cried: "Je suis heureux de vous annoncer victoire sur tout le front.---Joffre."
The lights blazed up. The girl ran wildly off the stage, and in a storm of cheering the orchestra struck up the Marseillaise. Bearded men kissed each other. Women smiled and wept at the same time. Then. as the orchestra broke into the chorus, a miracle happened. From the gallery above came the tramp of marching feet, and four hundred French reservists, singing in a glorious unison, took up the refrain. They were leaving for France the next day, and they sang the Marseillaise with all the passionate ardour of their Latin temperament. It was epic. It was the last occasion on which Russia was to feel supremely confident about the outcome of the war.
The capture of Lemberg had softened the grim defeat of Tannenberg. But the Tannenbergs were to be repeated, and, although the Russians were to hold their own against the Austrians almost to the end, it was already clear that they were no match for the Germans. Tannenberg, in fact, was the prelude to the Russian revolution. It was a message of hope to Lenin. It gave a handle to the hidden army of agitators in the factories and in the villages and, by destroying the pick of the Russian officers, it undermined the war-spirit of a people who by nature and by the exigencies of the Russian climate have always been incapable of any sustained effort.
Certainly, the transition from optimism to pessimism was not accomplished in one stage, and, if on the Russian front there never was the same immobility as in France, there were long periods of monotonous inactivity.
The decline in morale was, in fact, gradual, and, as it became clear that the war was to be a long one, life stabilised itself. In Moscow, which was far removed from the front, the spirit of the bourgeoisie was by no means discouraging. There was, it is true, little attempt to economise or to make sacrifices. There was no sentiment of public opinion against shirkers, and "embusqués" could find security in a Red Cross organisation without fear of being handed a white feather. Theatres and places of amusement flourished as in peace time, and, although the proletariat and the peasantry were deprived of their alcohol, no such restrictions were imposed on the well-to-do classes. To replenish their private stock of wine they required a permit, but, as the cost of living rose and since Russian officials were badly paid, permits were easily obtainable. In restaurants the only difference was that one drank one's alcohol from a teapot instead of from a bottle. As control became more lax, even the pretence of the teapot disappeared.
On the other hand, an immense and extremely valuable work was done by the so-called public organisations, represented by the Union of Cities and by the Union of Zemstvos, in providing the army with a whole network of hospitals and factories. Without this aid, the Russian military machine would have broken down far sooner than it did. Yet, instead of stimulating this patriotic effort and encouraging the public organisations in every way it could, the Russian Government did its best to hamper and curtail its activities. It may he said that the public organisations were politically ambitious, that they were honey-combed with Liberalism and therefore a menace to the autocracy. Admittedly, both the Cities Union and the Zemstvos Unions were controlled by Liberals who had a deep suspicion of St. Petersburg. Admittedly, too, their headquarters were in Moscow, and Moscow was never popular with the Emperor.
But, in the beginning at any rate, their enthusiasm for the war was single-minded, and the political aspirations, which came later, were the direct result of a policy of perpetual pin-pricks. It was the tragedy of Russia that the Tsar, dominated by a woman who was obsessed with the one ambition to hand down the autocracy unimpaired to her son, never took the public organisations into his confidence. The fact that gradually Moscow became more absorbed in the internal political struggle than in the war itself was mainly the result of the Tsar's fatal obtuseness. And, although his loyalty to his Allies remained unshaken to the last, it was his failure to harness the loyalty of his own people which eventually cost him his throne.
For me personally that first winter of 1914-1915 was a period of sadness relieved only by incessant hard work. My wife had made a slow recovery from her illness. Her nerves were shattered, and she was forced to enter a Russian sanatorium---an experience which did her little good and which, had I known more about Russian sanatoria, I should never have allowed her to undergo. We gave up our flat and, in the period of looking for a new one, took over a furnished flat from some English friends who had gone to England. My days and frequently my nights were entirely absorbed by consular work, which the war had more than trebled. In particular, the blockade and the manifold regulations controlling imports and exports involved an immense amount of ciphering, most of which I had to do single-handed. Moscow, too, had become an all-important political centre, and, as Bayley relied almost entirely on me for his political intelligence, my time was fully occupied. Another difficulty in my own case was the want of money. My wife's confinement had been expensive. With the new importance of our position our social obligations had increased. The business community---and Moscow was the chief commercial city of Russia---was prospering exceedingly from the lucrative war contracts which were being handed out lavishly, and with the increased cost of living which this prosperity brought in its train we were left at a sore disadvantage both towards the Russians and towards our own English colony. Moreover, the war had put an automatic end to my earnings from journalism. I was not permitted to write about the war. The English newspapers were interested in nothing else.
A pleasant relief to the monotony of our existence at this time was the visit of Hugh Walpole, who arrived in Moscow shortly after the outbreak of the war, and who remained with us for some months. He was a frequent visitor to our flat, and his cheery optimism was a godsend to my wife. At that time he had written several books, including "Fortitude," and already had his feet well planted on the ladder of success. He was, however, entirely unspoilt, could still blush from an overwhelming self-consciousness, and impressed me more as a great, clumsy schoolboy, bubbling over with kindness and enthusiasm, than as a dignified author whose views were to be accepted with awe and respect. With the exception of Bayley we took him to our hearts, and he repaid our friendship with a sympathy and kindness which have never faded. With Bayley he was less successful.
Bayley, who was then a sick man, was a cynic and an autocrat. He mistrusted enthusiasts. Still more did he dislike contradiction. Hugh, whose enthusiasm for everything Russian knew no bounds, liked argument and had views of his own. He irritated Bayley, and I fancy the irritation was mutual.
When Hugh left us, he went to the front as a Red Cross orderly. Later, he became head of the British propaganda bureau in St. Petersburg. From the first he had made up his mind to make the best of Russia. Certainly, Russia got the best out of him. His adventure at the front produced "The Dark Forest." His experiences in St. Petersburg inspired "The Secret City."
My diary shows that at this period I went out little and that such spare time as I had was spent in reading. In the last fortnight of January, 1915, I read and finished "War and Peace" in Russian. Occasionally I went with Walpole to the ballet and to the circus. It was with Hugh, too, that I first met Gorky---at Nikita Baleieff's "Bat." In those days the "Bat" was the favourite haunt of literary and artistic Moscow. Its performance did not begin until after the theatres had ended and many actors and actresses went there to sup as much as to see the performance. The "Bat," in fact, started as a kind of club of the Moscow Art Theatre, Baleieff himself having been a member of the company and failed to make good in that severe school. Today, his troupe, is as well-known in Paris, London and New York as ever it was in Russia, but to my mind the performances have lost much of the delicious intimacy of those early Moscow days, when there was no gulf between player and audience. Baleieff, incidentally, is an Armenian and belongs to what was once a rich family.
Gorky made a deep impression on me as much by his modesty as by his talent. His eyes are extraordinarily expressive, and in them one can read at once that sympathy with human suffering which is the dominating influence on his character and which in the end was to drive him, after a long period of opposition, into the arms of the Bolsheviks. Today, Gorky writes more bitterly against the bourgeoisie and against the moderate Socialists than the most violent "Chekist" in Moscow, but in spite of these literary outbursts I refuse to believe that he has lost that fundamental kindness which in the past he never failed to show to any case which deserved his pity. No one who has ever seen Gorky with children, with animals, and with young authors, will ever credit him with the power to inflict harm or suffering on any of his fellow-creatures.
It was at the "Bat," too, that I first met Chaliapin. An hour before I had seen him at the opera in "Boris," a part in which he is and looks every inch a king with the manners of a great aristocrat and with hands which seemed to belong to some ancient Doge of Venice. The whole thing was a trick---a marvellous example of that dramatic art which, as Stanislavsky always used to say, could have made him the greatest actor in the world, had he chosen to abandon his singing for the drama. Off the stage the man was still a peasant, with a peasant's appetite and the huge, strong hands of a son of the soil. In those days Gorky used to tell a good story of Chaliapin. In their youth the two men were tramping the Volga district in search of work. At Kazan a travelling impresario was looking for local talent to supplement his chorus. He wanted a tenor and a bass. Two poorly clad applicants entered his ramshackle office and were given an audition. The impresario took the tenor and rejected the bass. The tenor was Gorky. The bass was Chaliapin.
Moscow, always much more anti-German than St. Petersburg, was a perfect cesspool of rumours of pro-German intrigues in high places. One entry in my diary in February, 1915, runs as follows: "Today an officer telephoned to ask when England was going to rid Russia of 'the German woman'." This, of course, was a reference to the Empress, and my own comment was: "This is the third time that this kind of thing has happened this week." It was to happen still more frequently as the months passed. To this period, too, belongs the most popular Moscow story of the war. The Tsarevitch is seen crying in the corridor of the Winter Palace. A general, who is leaving the Palace after an audience, stops and pats the boy's head.
"What is wrong, my little man?"
The Tsarevitch replies, half-smiling, half-crying:
"When the Russians are beaten, papa cries. When the Germans are beaten, mama cries. When am I to cry?"
Stories of this kind were repeated all over the country and did immense harm both among the industrial proletariat and the peasantry. Moscow, in fact, lived on stories and rumours, and, if the spy-hunting mania was never as bad as in England and in France, there was considerable persecution both of the Jews and of the Russians of German extraction. Not all the stories, however, were concerned with the shortcomings of the autocracy. The German Kaiser received a considerable share of the wit and sarcasm of the Muscovite humourists. Many of them are too coarse for print. Others have been told before. One, however, is, I think, new to English readers. In the winter of 1915 the Kaiser visited Lodz and with a view to placating the local population made a speech. His audience was, of course, mainly Jewish. As they listened to him, they heard him refer, first to the Almighty and the All-Highest, then to God and himself, and finally to himself and God. When the speech was ended, the leading Jews withdrew into a corner to discuss the situation.
"This man will do for us," said the Chief Rabbi. "He's the first Christian I've met who denies the Holy Trinity."
How strange and unreal these stories sound today. Then, however, they were the stock-in-trade of every gossip and the staple entertainment of every salon.
I HAVE said that Bayley was a sick man. Lack of exercise, always the curse of the Moscow winter, and overwork had undermined his health, and in April, 1915, he made up his mind to return to England and to undergo the operation which for some time he had been told was necessary. With characteristic kindness he insisted on my taking a week's leave before his departure. It was the last real holiday I was ever to have in Russia and I enjoyed every minute of it. Leaving Moscow still bound in the grip of winter, I went to Kieff, the cradle of Russian history and the Holy City of the Orthodox Church. When I woke up after my night in the train, I looked out on green fields and delicious white cottages glistening in the warm sunshine. My travelling companion, an officer, who was returning to the front, greeted me with a smile. "You will like Kieff. You will find a better atmosphere here than in Moscow, let alone St. Petersburg." In the exuberance of my spirits I was prepared to believe anything. Actually, he spoke the plain truth. Although full of wounded, Kieff had far more war-spirit than Moscow. Indeed, right up to the revolution, the nearer one came to the front, the more optimistic was the prevailing sentiment. All the best of Russia (with, admittedly, some of the worst elements) was in the trenches. It was the rear and not the front which let the country down.
As we drew near to Kieff, we stopped for some considerable time at a wayside station. A train, carrying Austrian prisoners, was stranded in a siding. The prisoners, apparently unguarded, had slipped out of their cattle trucks and were sprawling about on some wood-piles, enjoying the first warmth of the Southern sun before continuing their long "trek" to Siberia. Poor devils. They looked as underfed as they were wretchedly clad. In Moscow the news of the capture of so many thousands of prisoners had always filled me with. a fierce exultation. Here, face to face with the unfortunates themselves, I had only one thought. Snodgrass, the American Consul-General, who was in charge of German interests in Russia, had given me a graphic account of the terrible conditions of the Russian prison-camps, and with a deep pity in my heart I wondered how many of these poor fellows, some, doubtless, happy to be captured and ignorant of the fate that lay ahead of them, would ever see their homes again. Then, as I stood at the open window looking at them much as a visitor studies a new animal in the Zoo, one of the prisoners began to sing the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana. He was a Croat, and the spring had warmed his heart, bringing him memories of his Dalmatian home. He was sublimely unconscious of our train-load of Russians. He was singing to please himself, and he sang as though his heart would burst. I do not know who he was. Probably he was a tenor from the Zagreb opera. But the effect of his voice in that tiny station with its background of green fields and orchards was magical. His fellow-prisoners stopped their pebble-throwing. The Russians in our train rose from their seats and stood in silent admiration at the windows. Then, when he had finished, Austrians and Russians combined in one spontaneous outburst of applause, while from the carriages a hail of cigarettes, apples and sweetmeats descended on the prisoners. The singer bowed gravely and turned his head away. Then the whistle went, and we passed on our way.
I arrived at Kieff about mid-day on Good Friday and spent the afternoon wandering about the town and looking at the churches, of which there are almost as many as in Moscow. Then, tired and rather lonely, I went to bed at nine o'clock. The next day I was up betimes. The sun was streaming into my room, and I was determined to make the best use of my temporary freedom. I am an American in my passion for sightseeing, and I "did" Kieff with all the thoroughness of the typical American tourist. After Moscow it was a relief to find hills and a real river. The fine weather had brought the whole of the town into the streets, Russians doing their Easter shopping and Jew shopkeepers catering for their needs. For, in spite of its churches, Kieff is almost more Jewish than Christian. Every one seemed to be smiling. The news from the Austrian front, for which Kieff was the base, was still good. Przemysl had fallen only a few weeks before, and in the prevailing optimism I felt happier than I had felt for months.
After luncheon I took a "droschke" and drove to the Vladimir Hill, where I left my driver and climbed up to look at the view. In England or in America private enterprise would have built a hotel or a sanatorium here. The Russians have put up a statue to St. Vladimir, who stands overlooking the Dnieper with a great cross in his hand. The Dnieper itself is a noble river---far more imposing than the Volga and totally unlike any river I had ever seen. After more than three years in a plain without hills and without sea I found it more soul-satisfying than perhaps I should today.
Then I drove down to the Suspension Bridge to have a look at the town from the plain. For, strangely enough, while Kieff itself is built on a cluster of hills, all around the country is as flat as the plain round Moscow. The white-roofed steamboats were already plying on the river. The trees were just coming into bloom. The lilac was out, and by the roadside buttercups were growing in profusion. By its position overlooking the river Kieff reminded me of Quebec, and, if Quebec has perhaps the finer site, the picturesqueness of the Kieff architecture is more than sufficient compensation.
In the evening I went to Saint Sofia to attend the midnight service. In Moscow my visits to the Russian church had always been on such official occasions as the Emperor's birthday or name-day. Always I had been in, uniform and had stood among the elect on a square shut off from more humble worshippers. Here at Kieff I was one of a crowd so dense that several people fainted. In spite of the discomfort, I remained to the end, took part in the procession, and shared in the emotional uplift of the vast congregation of peasants and pilgrims.
The pilgrims, pleasantly picturesque at a distance, were assembled in force, and on Easter Monday I went to see them at the famous Kieff Lavra, which with the Troitse-Sergievski Monastery near Moscow is the most celebrated holy place in Russia. So warm was the sun that I had to go back and take off my waistcoat. When I arrived at the monastery church, a service was going on, and thousands of soldiers were drawn up on the square outside. Pilgrims---bearded old men with limpid eyes and wizened-up old women---were picnicking everywhere. In the church itself I found an aged philosopher in a corner contentedly munching a loaf of black bread. He seemed supremely happy. From the church I went to the catacombs---cold and unimpressive subterranean passages containing the bones of forgotten saints. In front of each coffin was a collecting box by which sat a priest, and, as the footsore pilgrims clumsily inserted their copecks, the priest leant forward over the relics of the dead and chanted: "Pray to God for us." With a shudder I ascended into the sunshine and went out to a grassy plot on the cliff-edge. Here three blind beggars, sitting about three paces apart, were reading aloud the Gospel with varying degrees of success. One, a young man of not more than twenty-five, was wearing a soldier's uniform. If he had lost his sight in the war, how had he learnt the Braille system so quickly? If not, why was he wearing a soldier's uniform? I did not disturb his peace of mind by asking an indiscreet question, preferring to regard him as a living member of that holy Russia which in those early days of the war had evoked the emotional sympathies of my own countrymen.
Farther along the bank a gipsy with a fortune-telling parrot was doing a lucrative trade with the soldiers. The parrot was a well-trained bird and could give its customers the correct change up to about thirty copecks. What with the necromancers and the priests, most of the soldiers and the pilgrims must have gone away with empty pockets. What was left went to an old harpist who, to his own accompaniment, sang Caucasian folk-songs in a wheezy voice. It was all very peaceful, very harmless and very orderly. Both pilgrims and soldiers had in a contented mind a full reward for their outlay.
In Kieff I had no adventures; yet the memory of the week I spent there remains more clearly fixed in my mind than any other incident in the war. Perhaps it was the spell of the sunshine, or perhaps the contrast with the excitement of my Moscow life which has left me with so lucid an impression of this episode. Certainly, prolonged excitement can become as monotonous as the most vegetable existence, and in the next three years exciting incidents were to tax my memory to its utmost capacity.
As I left Kieff, the weather broke, and the rain descended in torrents. The station was a desert of depression, and, as I looked back over the railway-bridge, I felt grateful that the town had put on its gayest colours for my special benefit. Yet my heart was weighed down with the thought that I was leaving the south, the sunshine, and the smiling, laughing Ukrainians for the cold and cruel north. I did Moscow and the Great Russians an injustice. When the collapse came, Kieff was to be the centre of the worst atrocities of the revolution and the Ukrainians the perpetrators of the most brutal outrages.
On the return journey I had one minor adventure, which was due to Russian carelessness or to Russian indifference to accepted Western conventions. I had to share a sleeper with a lady. She was charming and within the first hour had told me her life story. She had been a famous singer and, having amassed a considerable fortune, had married a Guards officer. After six years of married life he had shot her in a fit of jealousy. The bullet had penetrated her neck. Since then she had been unable to sing. In her company the hours passed unnoticed, and it was late before I retired to rest. There was, however, no romance about the meeting. Although she carried her years well, she must then have been over sixty.
Soon after my return to Moscow Bayley went to England on sick-leave, and at the age of twenty-seven I was left in charge of what was rapidly becoming one of our most important posts abroad.
His departure neither exalted nor depressed me. I had acted for him before when he was absent on tours of inspection. I expected him back within a month. I was merely carrying on during his temporary absence.
Events, however, were to prolong my period of responsibility. From Kieff I had returned to a Moscow full of rumours and depression. Things were going badly on the German front. The Russian advance into Austria had been checked. The heavy counter-attacks had already begun, and refugees were streaming into the city and taxing its housing resources to the utmost. From my Socialist acquaintances I had received disquieting reports regarding discontent and disorders among the new conscripts in the villages. The wounded did not like going back..
The peasants objected to their sons being taken away from the fields. My English friends in the provincial textile factories had become increasingly anxious about the Socialist agitation among the workmen. It had become anti-war as well as anti-Government. In Moscow itself there had been bread riots, and the Assistant-Prefect had been stoned. Sandetsky, the commander-in-chief of the Moscow district and a gruff old patriot who hated Germans, had been removed from his post, and Prince Yusupoff, the father of the young Prince who later was involved in the Rasputin murder, had been appointed Governor-General in his place. The only reason for Sandetsky's dismissal, it was rumoured, was an excess of patriotism. The Empress, whose work for the wounded was untiring, had given ikons to the Russian soldiers and money to the German and Austrian prisoners. True or untrue as this report may have been, Sandetsky had protested against the molly-coddling of prisoners in high quarters and had been disgraced. The atmosphere was unhealthy. Confidence in the Russian arms had given way to a conviction of German invincibility, and in every section of the Moscow population ruled bitter resentment against the alleged pro-German policy of the Russian Government. The famous Russian steam-roller, which English imagination had invented (incidentally, it was one of the stupidest comparisons ever coined), had broken down.
Obviously, the situation called for action, and I sat down and completed two tasks on which I had been working even before Bayley's departure. One was a long report on the industrial unrest with a first-hand account of the aims of the Socialists. The other was a political report on the situation in Moscow. It was pessimistic in tone and hinted at the probability of serious riots in the immediate future. Then, with some trepidation, I sent them off to the Ambassador. I received a personal letter of thanks with a request that political reports should become a regular feature of my work.
My prediction of trouble received startling confirmation within a fortnight. On June 10th vast anti-German riots broke out in Moscow, and for three days the city was in the hands of the mob. Every shop, every factory, every private house, owned by a German or bearing a German name, was sacked and looted. The country house of Knop, the great Russo-German millionaire, who more than any man had helped to build up the Russian cotton-industry by importing English machinery and English managers, was burnt to the ground. The mob, mad with drink, which it had procured from the wreckage of some German-named wine merchant, showed no mercy. It cared nothing that its victims were Russian subjects and in many cases men who, in spite of their names, could speak no German. At Zündel's, a factory in the worst industrial area, the German-speaking manager, terrified into firing on the mob, was killed on the spot. I went out into the streets to see the rioting with my own eyes. For the first twenty-four hours the police could or would do nothing. Fires broke out in many quarters of the city, and, if there had been a wind, the disaster of 1812 might have repeated itself. On the Kuznetsky Most I stood and watched, while hooligans sacked the leading piano store of Moscow. Bechsteins, Blüthners, grand pianos, baby grands and uprights, were hurled one by one from the various stories to the ground, where a high bonfire completed the work of destruction. The crash of falling woodwork, the cruel tongues of flame, and the raucous yelling of the mob swelled into a terrifying discord, which even the troops, who had been called out, were at first unable to quell.
On the third day, after some shooting, the authorities were able to restore order. But, for the first time since 1905, the mob had felt its power. Its appetite for disorder had been whetted.
In this holocaust a considerable amount of British property had been damaged, and I therefore called immediately on the Prefect and on Prince Yusupoff, the Governor-General, to make my official protest. I found the unfortunate Prefect in a state of collapse. He knew that he would be held responsible---as indeed he was. He was superseded within twenty-four hours. Prince Yusupoff, as one of the richest landowners in Russia, was in a different situation. He was bitterly opposed to what he called the pro-German "brakes" in St. Petersburg and he was inclined to take the view that the riots would have a salutary effect on a lukewarm Government.
Shortly afterwards Prince Yusupoff went on leave and never resumed his post. The account of his dismissal or, as he called it, his refusal to return is amusing. Soon after the riots he gave a dinner to General Klimovitch, the new Prefect, and to Count Muravieff, the Governor of the province of Moscow. Two days later Djunkowski, the Assistant Minister of the Interior and the head of the secret police, rang up Muravieff from St. Petersburg and said to him.
"Two days ago you dined with Yusupoff!'
"You had sterlet and chaud-froid of partridge."
"You discussed the merits of Moscow and Petersburg women."
"You drank a Mouton-Rothschild of 1884."
"Yes," said the astonished Muravieff, "but how the devil do you know all this?"
"Why," replied Djunkowski, "Klimovitch has just sent me in a full report."
Muravieff repeated the story to Yusupoff, who exploded angrily, said he was not going to be spied upon by his assistant, and swore he would not return to Moscow until Klimovitch was kicked out.
Klimovitch remained, and Yusupoff never returned.
The origin of the Moscow riots is still shrouded in mystery, but I have always held the view that the Moscow Governor-General was greatly to blame in that he first tolerated what he apparently thought was to be a healthy anti-German demonstration and did not intervene until the situation had become highly dangerous.
As a result of this deplorable affair I received a request from the Ambassador asking me to come to St. Petersburg to see him.
Looking back across the years, I find it hard to recapture the thrill which this message gave me. Vice-Consuls, even acting Consuls-General, were not summoned every day to be consulted by Ambassadors. For one awkward moment I wondered if in any respect my handling of affairs had been remiss or if in any way I could be held responsible for what had happened. I decided the question in my own favour and consolidated my growing store of self-confidence. I took the precaution of calling on Michael Chelnokoff, the Moscow Mayor and my best friend in Russia, to collect the latest political information. Then, packing my bag, I set out for the station, where the indispensable Alexander had "wangled" me a sleeper to myself.
ALTHOUGH I had been three years in Russia, it was my first visit to St. Petersburg. It was also the first time I was to see Sir George Buchanan. Although today I have a hate of all towns, a city which is new to me rarely fails to touch some side of my emotions. In one sense St. Petersburg did not disappoint me. It is, in truth, a far more beautiful city than Moscow, and the view---especially the winter view---from the British Embassy, which has or had a noble site on the river opposite the fortress of Peter and Paul, is almost fairy-like in its beauty. But even in summer, in the season of the white nights, St. Petersburg always seemed to me cold and grey. Beneath its lovely exterior its heart was chill. Never at any time did it inspire me with the same friendly affection as Moscow.
On my arrival in the early morning I drove to the old Hotel de France, made a careful toilet, breakfasted, and then walked across through the Palace Square to the Embassy. I had a feeling of uncomfortable apprehension as if I was about to visit my dentist. As a Scot I sometimes try to cure my inferiority complex towards the English by a simulated contempt for their intellectual shortcomings. In the presence of foreigners I am a lion of self-confidence. The blustering swagger of the Americans only increases the sense of my own importance. Russians always make me feel that I am a "grand seigneur." But the meek arrogance of an Englishman's modesty reduces me to the level of an awkward gawk. I imagine that this inferiority complex, which now cramps me more securely than ever, dates from that day when I first entered the portals of the British Embassy.
As I made my way up one side of the broad double staircase, at the top of which the Ambassador used to receive his guests and on which three years later the unfortunate Cromie was to be shot down and trampled to death by Bolshevik soldiers, I felt like a schoolboy going to interview his headmaster. I turned to the left and was shown into a kind of ante-room which opened out of the corridor. Here I was met by Havery, the Chancery servant---a wonderful character, who had all the Englishman's contempt for foreigners and whose penchant for grumbling was equalled only by his kindness of heart. I was given a chair and was told to wait. As the minutes passed, the anticipated pleasure which my visit had aroused in me gave way to an increasing trepidation. The only member of the Embassy staff whom I knew was Colonel Knox, the military attaché. He was out. The Ambassador had fixed no time for my interview.
Obviously, every one was very busy. Perhaps I should have telephoned to ascertain the hour of my appointment. I became nervous and ill-at-ease. An ultra-sensitive nature has been my curse all through life. It---and it alone---is responsible for that reputation for calculated insolence which I acquired---most undeservedly---during my official career and which, later, was to cause a very high official in the Foreign Office to stigmatise me as an "impudent schoolboy." Never has this sensitiveness frozen me into such unnatural impotence as during that long drawn-out quarter of an hour in Havery's ante-room.
At last, a large white door with an iron bar across it opened, and a tall, athletic, and extremely good-looking man of about thirty came out. It was "Benji" Bruce, the head of the Chancery and the inevitable and indispensable favourite of every Ambassador under whom he has ever served. Telling me that the Ambassador would see me in a few minutes, he took me into the Chancery and introduced me to the other secretaries. Later, I was to know them better and appreciate their merits, but my first impression was of a typing and telegraph bureau conducted by Old Etonians. At uncomfortably close quarters in a large room, blocked with tables, sat half a dozen young men busily engaged in typing and ciphering. That they did their task well, that "Benji" Bruce could type as fast as any professional typist and cipher and decipher with astonishing speed is beside the point. Here was a collection of young men, all of whom had had thousands of pounds spent on their education, who had passed a difficult examination, yet who, in the middle of a great war, in which their special knowledge might have been used to their country's advantage, were occupied for hours on end in work which could have been performed just as efficiently by a second-division clerk. This system, now fortunately abolished, was typical of the want of imagination which reigned in Whitehall during at any rate the first two years of the war. Any side-show mission---and in Russia there must have been a score---could command an almost unlimited supply of money from the Treasury. The professional diplomatists, who, whatever their shortcomings may have been, knew their job better than the amateurs, were left to carry on as in peace time, not because of any danger of secrets being divulged, but merely because this system had been in force for generations and because, in the Chief Clerk's Department in the Foreign Office there was no one with sufficient elasticity of mind or force of character to insist on its being altered. No wonder that, after the war, many of the younger diplomatists, weary of this senseless drudgery, sent in their resignations. Bruce was a case in point. A man of strong and attractive personality, an excellent linguist, and a firm disciplinarian with a real genius for organisation, he ran his Chancery with remarkable efficiency. If a trifle obstinate, as becomes an Ulsterman, he served his various chiefs with passionate loyalty.
When he resigned soon after the war, the Foreign office lost perhaps the best-equipped of its younger diplomatists.
After I had kicked my heels in the Chancery for twenty minutes, Havery came in and announced that the Ambassador was free. As I entered the long study, in which afterwards I was to have so many interviews, a frail-looking man with a tired, sad expression in his eyes came forward to meet me. His monocle, his finely-chiselled features, and his beautiful silver-grey hair gave him something of the appearance of a stage-diplomat. But there was nothing artificial about his manner, or. indeed, about the man himself---only a great charm and a wonderful power of inspiring loyalty, to which I yielded at once.
His whole manner was so gentle that my nervousness left me instantaneously, and for an hour I talked to him, telling him my fears and my anxieties about the situation, the shortage of munitions, the subterranean propaganda against the war, the growing discontent of every class of the population with the Government, the murmurs against the throne itself. He showed some surprise. "I thought the atmosphere in Moscow was much healthier than in St. Petersburg," he said rather sadly. Indeed, it was, but I guessed that up to this point he had rated Moscow patriotism too highly. I had shaken a faith that perhaps was never very strong.
I was asked to luncheon and was introduced to Lady Georgina, the Ambassador's wife. She was a woman of strong likes and dislikes, which she made little attempt to conceal, and for some months she never failed to greet me, whenever I came to St. Petersburg, with the remark: "Here comes the pessimistic Mr. Lockhart." In every other respect, however, she showed me nothing but kindness, and, although I never quite overcame my original awe, I counted myself among the fortunates who enjoyed her favour. To Sir George himself she was everything that a wife should be, watching over his health with tireless zeal, running his house like clockwork and never failing in that passion for punctuality which in the Ambassador amounted almost to a mania. She was a big woman, and her heart was in proportion to her bulk.
This is no place in which to give an account of Sir George Buchanan's work in Russia, but I should like to pay my tribute to the man himself. Every British official who was in Russia during the war years has had inevitably to face the criticism which failure brings in its train. And in British eyes the collapse of Russia in 1917 was the greatest of all failures. The tendency, therefore, to seek scapegoats among their own countrymen is strong. Sir George Buchanan's name has not escaped the calumniators either in England or in Russia. I have heard ministers of the Crown declare that with a stronger British Ambassador the revolution might have been avoided. There are Russians who with the basest ingratitude have accused Sir George Buchanan of having instigated the revolution. Both criticisms can be dismissed as wholly ridiculous. Indeed, the Russian accusation is a particularly cruel and baseless slander, which, to the shame of London society, has been repeated without contradiction in London drawing-rooms by Russians who have enjoyed British hospitality in high places. It is a form of vilification which no personal sufferings can justify or ever excuse. Sir George Buchanan was a man whose every instinct was opposed to revolution. Until the revolution came he always refused to meet and, actually, never did meet any of the men who were responsible for the overthrow of Tsardom, nor did he either personally or through his subordinates give any encouragement to their ambitions. Naturally he would have been lacking in perspicacity if he had failed to foresee the catastrophe that was approaching, and in his duty if he had been afraid to warn the Russian autocracy of the dangers which he saw threatening it. This difficult task he undertook in a memorable conversation with the Emperor. I saw him just before he went to see the Tsar. He informed me that if the Emperor received him sitting down all would be well. The Tsar received him standing.
The Whitehall assertion that a stronger ambassador might have averted the final catastrophe is based on a fundamental ignorance of the traditions of the Russian autocracy. Contempt for foreigners is a characteristic of the English race, but in this respect the attitude of the most insular John Bull is tolerance itself compared with the arrogant indifference of St. Petersburg society to the stranger within its gates. With no long lineage and less real civilisation than one might expect from the luxury of its life, the Russian aristocracy lived in a world of its own. A foreign ambassador was not accepted merely because he was an ambassador. If he was liked for his own social qualities he was invited everywhere. If not, he was ignored. It was not actual snobbishness. The Russian aristocracy was as hospitable as the other sections of the Russian population. But it made its own selection of the recipients of its hospitality, and frequently its choice was startling in its indiscrimination. During the war years a junior lieutenant in the British Military Censor's office probably went to more parties in high places than all the members of the Embassy put together.
To the aristocracy the complete absolutism of the Tsar was something more than a religion. It was the rock on which its own sheltered existence was built. In its eyes the Emperor was the only real monarch in the world, and for its own sake it was always ready to regard any attempt by foreign diplomatists to influence him as an encroachment on the Imperial authority. The most efficient members of the bureaucracy were Baltic barons---a class hidebound even today, in reaction. From the first they saw in the war a danger to the autocracy, and England as the home of constitutional monarchy they regarded with deep suspicion. Nor, for all his weakness, was the Emperor himself easily accessible or in any way, except the most tactful, amenable to foreign influence. He would have resented as much as his advisers any attempt by an English diplomatist to speak plainly to him.
Sir George Buchanan's task was therefore abnormally difficult. He had to overcome the political prejudice against England which still remained from past differences of policy. He had to take into consideration the peculiar susceptibilities of the ruling class. To suggest that because he walked warily he was a weak man is to underrate his whole character. He had been selected for the St. Petersburg Embassy because of the excellent work he had done at Sofia, and I doubt if there was any one in the British diplomatic service who understood the Slav character better. If not a man of outstanding intellect (he had the Scot's mistrust of brilliance), he had remarkable powers of intuition and an abundant supply of common-sense. To Russian cleverness he opposed complete honesty and sincerity tempered with caution. He won the full confidence of Sazonoff, the most reliable of the Tsarist ministers, and by the vast bulk of the Russian population he was regarded as a man whose heart was in an Allied victory as distinct from a purely English victory, and who would countenance no intrigues at the expense of Russia. I say intentionally "the bulk of the Russian population," for it is a mistake to imagine that Sir George Buchanan was an unpopular figure in Russian society. Except in pro-German circles his admirers among the aristocracy were numerous. It was only after the revolution that the nobility began to murmur against him, seeking in him a scapegoat for their own failure and a cloak for their own loose talk against the Emperor. More than all the resolutions of the Zemstvos and the Cities Unions, more than all the agitation of the Socialists, it was the openly expressed criticism by Grand Dukes and highly placed aristocrats which sapped the authority of the Imperial throne. When the history of Anglo-Russian relations during these fateful years is seen in perspective, future generations will recognise how great was the work accomplished by Sir George Buchanan in helping to keep Russia in the war for as long as she remained. Certainly, I can imagine no greater calamity to the English fortunes than an English Ambassador in St. Petersburg who had tried to play the little Napoleon of Whitehall before the Emperor.
As a chief Sir George Buchanan was delightful---a man in whom all thought of self was submerged in the highest conception of duty. He was worshipped by his staff, and, when he took his daily walk to the Russian Foreign Office, his hat cocked on one side, his tall, lean figure slightly drooping under his many cares, every Englishman felt that here as much as the diplomatic precincts of the Embassy itself was a piece of the soil of England.
If there was one aspect of his character on which I should lay stress, it was his magnificent courage both physical and moral. Physically, he did not know the meaning of the word "fear." Morally, he triumphed completely over what I think was a natural inclination to the line of least resistance and faced without a moment's hesitation situations and interviews which were repugnant to him.
To me he was unfailingly kind. Through the insignificance of my own position I was able to see people whom neither he nor other members of his staff could see. I was thus enabled to supply him with information which, provided it was correct, was of some value to him. Many an ambassador would have taken this information as a matter of course and incorporated what he required in his own despatches. This was not Sir George's way. He not only gave me every encouragement both by letter and in personal discussion, but he also sent my reports home to the Foreign Office---frequently with a covering despatch of approval. As a result, I was given full credit for my work in London and on several occasions received a personal letter of commendation from Sir Edward Grey. My head went a little higher in the air. I fought more fiercely with the Chief Clerk's department for increased office and personal allowances. But to Sir George I was full of gratitude and of that respectful submission which gratitude should always bring with it. Later, I was to forfeit his goodwill by the anti-intervention attitude I adopted after the Bolshevik revolution. But of all the men I have worked under in my career he was, with the single exception of Lord Milner, the one who inspired in me the greatest affection and hero-worship, and I am glad that, before he died, I was able to make my peace with him.
I RETURNED to Moscow well pleased with my reception and greatly encouraged by the Ambassador's request that I was to keep in close touch with him and to come to St. Petersburg whenever there was anything important to discuss. Although I said nothing about my visit, the redoubtable Alexander was not so silent, and very soon I found that both with the officials and with the politicians my prestige was considerably enhanced. I expect that on Alexander's lips the story lost nothing in the telling and that in the Governor-General's office and in the headquarters of the Zemstvos and Cities Unions it was broadcast that His Excellency the Acting British Consul-General (Alexander always omitted the Acting) was now going regularly to St. Petersburg to consult if not actually to advise His Super-Excellency (in Russia ambassadors were Super-Excellencies) the British Ambassador.
During that summer of 1915 I consolidated my friendship with Michael Chelnokoff, the Moscow Mayor and a former vice-president of the Imperial Duma. Chelnokoff, a splendid type of Moscow merchant, grey-bearded, patriarchal, broad-shouldered and, in spite of a game leg, stout-hearted beyond most of his compatriots, was a grand fellow. Although he was twenty years older than myself, we became the closest friends, and through him not only did I come to know intimately all the Moscow political leaders like Prince Lvoff, Vasily Maklakoff, Manuiloff, Kokoshkin, and many others, but I also received copies of the numerous secret resolutions which were passed by such bodies as the Moscow Municipality, the Zemstvo Union, of which Prince Lvoff was head, and the Cities Union of which Chelnokoff himself was the moving spirit. Sometimes I was even able to obtain in Moscow through the same source copies of secret resolutions passed by the Cadet Party in St. Petersburg or of such documents as Rodzianko's letter to the Prime Minister and to send them to our Embassy in St. Petersburg before any one else had brought them to its notice. These minor successes naturally added to my reputation as a "news-getter." Through the Zemstvos and Cities Unions, too, I was of some service to the War Office. The Zemstvos and. the Cities Union, though stupidly hampered by the Government, were the nearest Russian equivalent to our Ministry of Munitions, and from Lvoff and Chelnokoff I received regularly the latest figures regarding the output of every kind of war materials.
During the two and a half months of Bayley's absence I had entrenched myself solidly in Moscow. I had received the thanks of the Foreign Secretary. I was persona grata with the war-leaders in Moscow. The Ambassador had sent for me. At the end of July Bayley would return. He would, I felt, be pleased and I should have the satisfaction of knowing that I had done my job well. There seemed nothing more to which I could look forward.
Then, however, came a new crisis. Things had gone from bad to worse on the Russian front. The retreat in Galicia and in the Carpathians did not affect Moscow so much except in the increase of wounded, but the advance on Warsaw was different. For some weeks Polish refugees had been pouring into Moscow. Now on July 19th came a telegram from Grove informing me that Warsaw was being evacuated and that he and the remaining members of the British colony were leaving for Moscow immediately. Three days later he arrived, and on the same day came a telegram from Bayley, informing me that he had been appointed Consul-General in New York and was returning to Moscow at once to pack up. I had no ill-will against the Groves. If I had any personal ambitions, I was unconscious of them. But I must confess that this double-barrelled shock filled me with consternation. If Bayley went to New York, Grove obviously would take his place in Moscow, and, quite candidly, after Bayley I did not relish a return to the Grove régime.
On July 30th Bayley arrived, carrying a surprise-packet in demonstration against the police, which ended as usual with a charge of mounted gendarmes.
The next day there was general disappointment at the false report, and, together with my French colleague, I called on the Prefect to demand summary action against the editor and the publishers. He received us with the usual official unctuousness. He had already anticipated our just indignation. He had closed down the newspaper for the rest of the war. We expressed our gratitude in proper terms. After this statement I was surprised to find the paper still continuing to appear, having changed its name from Evening News to Evening Gazette. In every other respect it was identical with its predecessor. The headlines and the type were the same. The erring editor of the day before had signed the leading article of today.
I fumed and gave the Prefect best. I discovered later that the victory stunt had been operated in connection with the police in order to let the public work off steam.
I do not profess ever to have mastered the psychology of the Tsarist police. I refuse, however, to believe either in its efficiency or in its honesty. The dreaded "Okhrana" of the Seton Merriman novel was a myth fearful more by its name than by its omniscience. It was an organisation run by bunglers and clever crooks, and in it the bunglers outnumbered the brains by nine to one.
As the autumn advanced, the approaching tragedy of Russia impressed itself more and more on my mind. Worse things were to happen than the fall of Warsaw. Yet the same defect of character which made the Russian incapable of sustained effort helped to take the edge off his pessimism. No Muscovite could continue for long to wring his hands. Actually, as blow succeeded blow, local patriotism reasserted itself, and, if in St. Petersburg there were few people who believed in a Russian victory, Moscow adopted the slogan that the war could not be won unless the dark influences in the capital were eliminated. From this moment dates the first of the many resolutions demanding a ministry of national defence or of public confidence.
At first these demands were modest enough. Moscow was prepared to accept legitimate Tsarist ministers---that is, men like Krivoshein, Sazonoff, Samarin, Sherbatoff and others, who had no connection with the political parties in the Duma. It would at this stage have been simple enough for the Tsar to have formed a new Ministry which would have satisfied public opinion, without going outside the usual circle from which he chose his advisers. By giving in time the six inches of reform which were necessary, he might have saved the yards which a disillusioned country was to take by force afterwards. Those nearest him, however, saw the matter in another light. They told him that any concession now would be regarded as a fatal weakness and that the appetite of the reformers would only be whetted. This was an argument which never failed to convince the Empress, and in consequence the Tsar's reply to those who were working hardest for Russia's victory was to dissolve the Duma, to relieve the Grand Duke Nicholas of his command, and to dismiss Samarin, Sherbatoff and Djunkowski, the three Ministers who at the moment were most popular in Moscow.
The dissolution of the Duma provoked the usual strikes and protests. But the assumption of the Supreme Command by the Tsar himself was the first milestone on the way to Golgotha. It was the most fatal of the many blunders of the unfortunate Nicholas II, for as Commander-in-Chief he became personally responsible in the eyes of the people for the long succession of defeats which, owing to Russia's technical deficiencies, were now inevitable.
The dismissal of Samarin and Djunkowski was the indirect sequel of an episode of which I myself had been a silent witness. One summer evening I was at Yar, the most luxurious night-haunt of Moscow, with some English visitors. As we watched the music-hall performance in the main-hall, there was a violent fracas in one of the neighbouring "kabinets." Wild shrieks of women, a man's curses, broken glass and the banging of doors raised a discordant pandemonium. Head-waiters rushed upstairs. The manager sent for the policeman who was always on duty at such establishments. But the row and the roaring continued. There was more coming and going of waiters and policemen, and scratching of heads and holding of councils. The cause of the disturbance was Rasputin---drunk and lecherous, and neither police nor management dared evict him. The policeman telephoned to his divisional inspector, the inspector telephoned to the Prefect. The Prefect telephoned to Djunkowski, who was Assistant Minister of the Interior and head of all the police. Djunkowski, who was a former general and a man of high character, gave orders that Rasputin, who, after all, was only an ordinary citizen and not even a priest, should be arrested forthwith. Having disturbed every one's enjoyment for two hours, he was led away, snarling and vowing vengeance, to the nearest police-station. He was released early next morning on instructions from the highest quarters. He left the same day for St. Petersburg, and within twenty-four hours Djunkowski was relieved of his post. Samarin's dismissal, which followed later, made a very painful impression. A nobleman of splendid character, he was then Oberprokuror or Minister in Charge of Church matters and one of the very best representatives of his class. No one but a madman could accuse him of anything but the most orthodox conservative opinions or of any lack of loyalty to the Emperor. Yet every Liberal and every Socialist respected him as an honest man, and the fact that the Emperor could thus sacrifice one of his most loyal advisers for a creature like Rasputin was accepted by nearly every one in Moscow as a complete proof of the Tsar's incompetence. "Down with the autocracy!" cried the Liberals. But even among the reactionaries there were those who said: "If the autocracy is to flourish, give us a good autocrat."
This was the only occasion on which Rasputin came across my path. From time to time, however, I saw the mark of the beast at Chelnokoff's house, where the Mayor would show me a short typewritten note requesting him to fix up the bearer in a safe and comfortable job in the Cities Union. The note was signed in an illiterate scrawl "G.R."---Grigori Rasputin. The requests were invariably turned down by the sturdy Chelnokoff.
With the advent of winter---and in that year of 1915 it came early---a period of stagnation set in on the front and with it came a lull in the political discontent. Life went on.
My wife and I dined out six nights in the week. Most days we had people to luncheon---English officers, generals, admirals, colonels, captains, passing through Moscow on their way to the headquarters of the various Russian armies. Once a week my wife had a reception, and by some innate talent of her own succeeded in making the wolves lie down with the lambs. She was especially delighted when she could include a Socialist or two in her bag. Nevertheless, everybody came---from the Commandant of the Kremlin, the Governor, the Prefect and the Generals of the Moscow district (not all of the generals were well disposed either to the Government or to the local authorities) down to the rich Moscow millionaires, and the ballet dancers, the actors and writers, and the shy and rather awkward politicians of the Left. There were, as far as I remember, no contretemps, although on one occasion Sasha Kropotkina, the daughter of that fine old anarchist, Prince Kropotkin, nearly came to blows with Countess Kleinmichel over the lack of martial spirit in St. Petersburg. This mingling of the different sets of Russians in Moscow was as good for them as it was useful to us. It broke down barriers which had never been stormed before. It provided us with information of the most varying character.
That there were Russians whose hearts were still set on victory was brought home to me in a remarkable manner when my brother Norman was killed at Loos. I did not receive the news until early in October. We had been out in the country and were dining with some Russians at the Hermitage. My wife had gone home to change her shoes. There she found the telegram and telephoned to me at the restaurant. It was the first time that the death of some one I loved had come to me without warning, and in the telephone box I broke down and cried bitterly. I told my Russian friends what had happened and went home. The next morning nearly every Moscow newspaper had a very generous tribute to my brother and to the heavy losses of the Scottish troops, and for days to come I received letters of sympathy from Russians of every class and rank. Many came from people I did not know even by sight. Most of them ended with an expression of profound conviction of the ultimate triumph of the Allies.
It must not be thought, however, that my life was all tragedy. The strikes, the political discontent, the defeats, stand out today like landmarks in a great plain, but they were not everyday occurrences or even an important part of my daily life. I had my own problems to tackle: committees to attend (the British colony ran various enterprises for the wounded and the refugees; in addition, there were recruiting committees, war supply committees, etc.) and an immense routine work at the Consulate which, apart from my political work, was a whole time job in itself. Some of my troubles were humorous; others merely irritating. I could laugh when my wife rang me up at the Consulate to say that the servants had gone on strike or rather refused to enter the flat, because there was an evil spirit, a Poltergeist, whose chief offence seemed to be the breaking of valuable plates. Certainly, a rare and precious ikon had fallen by itself, and, as my wife took the servants' side, there was nothing for it but to enlist the services of the priest. He came and for the sum of five roubles gave the Poltergeist a liberal sprinkling of holy water. The flat was cleansed; the servants returned; and strangely enough, the queer noises and the breaking of plates ceased.
Less amusing were the frequent rows among my Consular staff, which had swollen considerably since the influx of the British refugees from Warsaw., Bayley had left me with a legacy in the person of Francis Greenep, a once well-known London lawyer. Always very neatly dressed, he was a fine-looking old man, and his silver hair and his monocle lent distinction to a staff of which I myself was almost the most youthful member. When in the right mood, he had charming manners. His work, too, was punctually and excellently done. But---and it was a big but---his temper was explosive and, as he was always on the look-out for insults, there were many scenes. One day it would be Alexander who had ruffled his dignity. Another time it would be St. Clair, the Vice-Consul from Warsaw, who had been attached to me and who, although more Polish than Scottish, had all the pride of the ancient Scottish family to which he belonged. Strange, difficult fellows they were: responsive to emotional appeals, but not to be driven. I expect I tried them highly, and in my case living for months and indeed years on end at high tension in a small office, where one saw the same faces every day, was strain enough to break the strongest nerves, and neither Greenep's nor St. Clair's were up to standard. I could manage the rows between the various members of the staff. It was another matter when Greenep's wrath was unloosed on visitors to the office. For his own sake I kept him as much as possible in his own room, but obviously I could not prevent him from entering the main office in the execution of his duties. In a long series of incidents two had serious results. One morning, as I was deciphering a telegram in my own room, I heard an angry altercation from the outer office. Above the general din, I could hear Greenep's voice, trembling with rage: "Do what you're told, sir, or leave the office!"
I rushed out just in time to prevent my aged hot-head from doing physical violence to an English artillery major, who was purple with indignation.
"Are you in charge of this Consulate?" he stuttered to me. "Then you will give me satisfaction or I'll report you to the Foreign Office. This fellow here has insulted the King's uniform."
Greenep was standing by the side of the office counter, his finger pointing at the portrait of the King which adorned the wall.
"Take off your hat, sir, in His Majesty's presence."
He kept repeating his demand in a kind of eldritch refrain. With the help of Fritz, my Lettish clerk, who had been a witness of the whole scene, I sifted out the truth. The officer in uniform had come into the office with his cap on. Greenep, who was passing through, had pointed to the King's portrait and had said politely enough: "Don't you see the King's portrait, sir? This is not a station waiting-room." The officer had paid no attention. Greenep had then demanded more peremptorily that he should remove his hat. And then the fur had started to fly.
It was a difficult case. Actually, Greenep was in the wrong in losing his temper. The officer, however, had been tactless. He was inclined to stand on his rights and insisted that, when he came into an office, it was correct for him to keep his cap on. But for his pomposity I should have had no alternative but to dismiss the unfortunate Greenep---a course which I was loath to take, partly because the man was devoted to me and, secondly, because it meant putting him into the street. I tried to smooth down the officer without sacrificing Greenep, but he insisted on his pound of flesh. I refused to give it to him. He left me vowing vengeance. I reported the whole matter to the Ambassador, apportioning the blame equally between the two protagonists and representing the affair as a case of war nerves. I heard no more, and fortunately for me the incident was closed.
More serious was a similar episode in which Greenep affronted Baleieff, a rich Armenian and a brother of the famous Nikita. In his spare time Greenep supplemented his income by giving lessons to rich Russians. Baleieff was one of his pupils. Apparently there had been some trouble about payment. At any rate, Greenep nursed a grievance. It found its outlet when one day Baleieff came into the Consulate to obtain a visa. Unfortunately, Greenep was again in the main office, and the sight of the rich man, who he alleged had done him out of his hard-earned roubles, maddened him. Once again I had to rush out and make peace. This time, however, the consequences were more serious. There had been witnesses of the incident, and Baleieff was determined to take his legal remedy. Luckily, his lawyer was a great friend of our own lawyer and was as anxious as I was to prevent a public scandal. Between us we worked out every possible compromise which would satisfy Baleieff's wounded feelings and at the same time save Greenep from dismissal. In the end Baleieff agreed to drop all proceedings in return for a public apology to be made in the Presence of the Consular staff and of himself and his lawyer. The apology was to be drafted by him.
It was a long one. There were several references to gentlemen and gentlemanly behaviour. It was an unpleasant dose for any one, and for twenty-four hours Greenep refused to swallow it. I pointed out to him that I could do no more and that if the matter came before the courts there could only be one result. He would have to go.
Finally, he agreed. The apology was typed out, and with the lawyers I arranged the formalities for its delivery. In the main office Fritz and the three lady typists sat like mummies at their desks. On the door side of the counter stood Baltieff and his lawyer. I took up my own stand on the office side of the counter. When all was ready, I walked to Greenep's room, brought him up before the counter, and put the apology into his hands. He was in his best suit. His hair was carefully brushed. His monocle was fixed firmly in his eye. His face was like a statue.
Only from the trembling paper in his hands could one suspect the suppressed rage.
"Shall I begin?" he said in an ominous whisper. He read through the idiotic document, a rich flush suffusing his cheeks until they became the colour of a turkey's comb, while Baleieff, fat and sweating with fear, extracted what satisfaction he could from the Englishman's humiliation. When he had finished, Greenep turned one awful glare at his enemy, crumpled up the paper in his hand and with a "There, you may have your pound of flesh!" strode out of the room.
Today, the scene seems comic enough and, indeed, a trifle undignified as far as my own participation is concerned. But at the time it was a serious business. Indeed, so great was Greenep's capacity for nursing a grievance, that he might very easily have involved the Consulate-General in a scandal or in expensive litigation and, certainly, in ridicule.
There were, however, compensations. In November, 1915, the Ambassador wrote me a letter informing me that the Foreign Office was so pleased with my work that I was to be left in charge of the Consulate-General until the end of the war. I used this letter with great effect in order to improve my financial position, which, with my increased responsibilities, was becoming precarious. For some time I had been conducting a bitter correspondence with the Foreign Office. We were in the middle of a great war. I was being involved in far greater expenditure than ever Bayley had had to face, and I was receiving neither increase of pay nor increase of office allowance. I enlisted the services of the Ambassador on my side. They were given whole-heartedly. Very early on, he wrote to the Foreign Office saying: "There is scarcely any Consular post of the same importance as Moscow at the present moment. It is the industrial and, in a certain broad sense, the political, capital of Russia.... You will have seen from Mr. Lockhart's despatches the excellent work that has been done by that office since Mr. Clive Bayley's departure!'
Even Ambassadors, however, cannot disturb the unimaginative routine of the Chief Clerk's Department or of the Treasury, and it was not in an obdurate Whitehall, but in the heart of my grandmother that Sir George Buchanan's letter was of service to me. The old lady, thrilled always by success, was delighted by the Ambassador's encomiums. I knew just exactly how to launch my appeal. My brother Norman had supplied the perfect form to all of us, when he was a small boy in his first term at Marlborough. As his birthday approached, he had written to his grandmother as follows:
I hope you are well. I am enjoying school very much
My birthday is next Tuesday. All the boys here have cameras and spend their time taking snap-shots. The weather has been very good, and we have played more hockey than 'rugger.' I am in the fourth form and my housemaster is called Taylor. His nickname is 'Trilby.' He is a parson and he says prayers faster than any one I have ever heard. I hope you are well, dear Grannie, and that you are not finding Edinburgh too cold. I was first in scripture last week.
Your loving grandson,
P.S.---I have no camera."
With the right bow in my hands-and this time I had it, I could play a still better tune on this fiddle. I gave the old lady a glowing account of the Scots in Russia and the part the Bruces, the Gordons, the Hamiltons, had played in building St. Petersburg and in winning Peter the Great's battles. Had not a Learmonth---the very name of her house---provided Russia with her greatest poet? I dwelt on all the famous people I had met. I described the dinners given by my colleagues and by my Russian friends. My P.S. assured her of my unfailing belief in ultimate victory provided the cost of living could be kept down. Perhaps in her dreams (I have said she was ambitious) she already saw me rallying the spent Russians to the attack. Perhaps she was amused by my artfulness in the same way as she had been amused by my brother's hint about the camera. At any rate, just as he received his camera, so I received my cheques---cheques, too, for generous amounts---which relieved my financial embarrassments and enabled me at any rate to keep my end up.
May her soul rest in peace. She was a grand woman and even in the days of my failure she treated me better than I deserved. Without her I should have been completely lost in Moscow---a reflection which I feel sure will not make the members of the Chief Clerk's department sleep less comfortably in their beds. Let them not think I bear them a grudge. The Whitehall game of battledore and shuttlecock, of vouchers and vouchers for not producing a voucher, has been played ever since the gods were on Olympus. It will be played for all time. On the whole, too, it is played in good temper by both sides. My only complaint is that in war time the rules of the game should be relaxed.
As 1915 drew to its end, my political work increased. The Allies were now seriously anxious about the Russian situation, and to my other labours was added the task of entertaining and shepherding the various missions sent out by France and England to stimulate the Russians to fresh efforts. Hitherto we had had a small list of more or less regular visitors. They included men like Colonel Knox (now General Sir Alfred Knox), Sir Samuel Hoare, the head of a special intelligence mission, General Sir John Hanbury-Williams, and Admiral Sir Richard Phillimore, the two British representatives attached to the Tsar's military headquarters, and the various officers attached to the different armies on the Russian front. Of these officers, Colonel Knox, who had spent many years in Russia, was by far the best informed on military matters. Very early in the war he had seen the cracks in the Russian wall, and, if the Allies formed an exaggerated idea of the Russian strength, it was certainly not the fault of the English military attaché. Up to the revolution no man took a saner view of the military situation on the Eastern front and no foreign observer supplied his Government with more reliable information.
Of the others Sir John Hanbury-Williams was a charmer, who was popular with every one. Admiral Phillimore maintained the highest traditions of the British Navy by persisting in rising daily at seven o'clock---or was it six?---in a country where nobody stirred before nine or ten. The impression on the Russians was immense and wholly beneficial. Sir Samuel Hoare triumphed over a whole field of obstacles by the same industry and persistence which today have elevated him to Cabinet rank. His appointment to St. Petersburg was not popular with the regular soldiers. It was hard to understand in what respect his mission could supplement the work which was being done by the other British organisations. He himself had no special qualifications for the task, and, when he arrived, I anticipated friction and failure. With a less tactful man the forebodings would have been justified. Sir Samuel, however, beset himself to his task with unflagging and unobtrusive enthusiasm. He learnt Russian. He worked indefatigably. He made it his business to meet every class of Russian. He gathered in his information from many fields, and, unlike most intelligence officers, he showed a fine discrimination in sifting the truth from the chaff of rumour. In short, he made good. If, at the time, any one had asked me to lay the odds against Sir Samuel as a future leader of the Conservative Party or as a possible Prime Minister of England, I confess that I should have had no hesitation in going the limit. Now, however, I realise that the same qualities which he showed in Russia in circumstances of great difficulty have stood him in good stead in his subsequent political career. Behind Sir Samuel's small frame there is, combined with considerable ability, courage, and capacity for mastering his subject, a strong and very persistent will power. Where eighteen years ago I should have laid a thousand to one against, today I should not give more than two to one.
These, as I have said, were our regular visitors. Now they were to be supplemented by the various side-shows. The first of these to visit Moscow was the French political mission to Rumania. Its object was to counteract German influences in Bucharest and to bring Rumania into the war. It was composed of Charles Richet, the eminent scientist, Georges Lacour-Gayet, the historian, and M. Gavoty, the former proprietor of the "Revue Hebdomadaire." I saw much of all three men during their long stay in Moscow for, strangely enough, the mission was held up for weeks before it reached its destination. It was combated---and, for a long time, successfully---by the French Minister in Rumania.
This visit is very memorable to me for three reasons: the first entirely creditable, the second purely vain, and the third slightly discreditable, for which, however, my wife must share the blame. The creditable reason is that in Richet I met the greatest genius and most attractive personality I have ever known. Few men who have seen anything of the politico-military administration of the war can have any faith left in the "great man" theory. Most of our geniuses die unrewarded, but it is quite certain that they are, rarely, if ever, found in the unfertile field of politics or modern warfare. Richet, however, is a genius who has found honour in his own time. Absolutely unaffected and simple as a child, he is wholly charming in character. The first constructor of a modern aeroplane and a poet and a prose writer of distinction, he received the Nobel prize for medicine. The war took six of his seven sons, but it left no rancour in Richet's heart---no hate except of war itself. He is still living; still at the age of eighty almost alone among his countrymen in throwing his weight into the scale of international understanding against the balance of malicious self-interest and ignorant nationalism.
At that time Richet was of course a patriot---that is, he believed in an Allied victory as an essential condition to the defeat of militarism. How well, too, he pleaded the Allied case before the Russians. How quickly he understood the Russian character. After his first speech in Moscow---a wonderful performance with all the University professors on the platform---he took me aside.
"This is our war," he said, "your country's and mine. We must be strong in ourselves and count only on ourselves."
The second reason why this visit remains very vividly in my memory is that it was to have furnished the occasion for my first big public speech. It is true that a few weeks before I had made my first public speech in Russian at the opening of a hospital. It had been, however, very short. At the luncheon given by the British Club to the distinguished Frenchmen I was to have made my first attempt at war propaganda on a public platform. On the eve of the luncheon I was stricken with tonsilitis and influenza. I fainted at the telephone and cut my head on the receiver as I was in the act of summoning the doctor. It was perhaps a fortunate escape. The three Frenchmen were brilliant professional orators. It was better for me to make my debut among my own countrymen who, in Parliament and outside it, are in my experience (and I have visited nearly every Parliament in. Europe and have heard most of the great foreign orators) the worst speakers in the world.
The third and slightly discreditable reason was the procuring by my wife of a document of considerable importance. I have said that the French mission had not been allowed to proceed to Rumania owing to the protestations of M. Blondel, the French Minister of Bucharest. The three Frenchmen were very indignant and made little attempt to conceal their anger or their intention of demanding explanations when they returned to Paris. Their hands had been strengthened against their own diplomatic representative in Rumania by a report by Marshal Pau, the one-armed French general, who had just completed an extensive study of the whole situation in that country. Pau's report was known to be extraordinarily frank in its criticisms, and we were very desirous of seeing the original document. During the visit one of the Frenchmen (as all three are still living, it would be unfair to say which) stayed with us in our flat. Like most Frenchmen he was a courtier. In Paris the most severe and respected of professors, he thawed in the warm and rather licentious atmosphere of Moscow. He made my wife his confidante. He became indiscreet. One afternoon, to relieve her of a headache, he gave her the famous Pau report to read. With great presence of mind she committed it to writing, and in this manner I was able to send a complete copy to Sir George Buchanan. Soldiers have a reputation for bluntness, but the Marshal's report would have shocked even the bluntest fire-eater in our own War Office. In language more effective because it was unadorned by any extravagances of style, it gave a devastating picture of conditions at the Rumanian court in 1915. The Marshal had spared no one. There was a thumbnail sketch of the King with chapter and verse for the numerous weaknesses of a character in which there was little to admire. There was a complete dossier of romantic adventure in high places with a "Who's Who" of the personalities involved and a record of their influence and political sympathies. There was an unflattering picture of the French, British and Russian Ministers, who were accused of setting a bad example in war-time to Rumanian society and of wasting their diplomatic effort by unseemly dissensions among themselves. The Marshal was frankly pessimistic. Rumania's subsequent entry into the war was to justify his gloominess. He thought nothing of the Rumanian army. He thought still less of Allied diplomacy in Rumania. The full force of his indignation was reserved for the French and Russian ministers, whose antipathy to each other enabled the pro-German party to drive a wedge between two influences which should have been paramount. England, said the old soldier, had no historical role to play in Rumania. The only influence she could usefully exert would be through the good looks of her men. She should send her best-looking military attaché to the Rumanian court. As a result of the Pau report there were changes in Rumania. As her new military attaché, England sent Colonel C. B. Thomson, who was subsequently to become the personal friend of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, to be made a Labour Peer and a Cabinet Minister, and to perish in the ill-fated initial voyage of the dirigible R.101.
I remember little about that second Christmas of the war except that it was gay. Russians, rightly or wrongly, never allowed depression to interfere with their festivals, nor did they try studiously to cultivate a war attitude. They were undisciplined and amoral. Their whole effort was individual and not co-operative.
On January 1st, 1916, my wife and I spent the whole day paying official visits---one of the few really irksome duties of officialdom in Russia. The beginning of the year must have inspired more people than myself with good resolutions, for as a result of my visits my diary notes for January are remarkably optimistic. Two factors were responsible for this healthier atmosphere. Our Russo-Greek friend, Lykiardopoulos, had just returned from an adventurous journey into Austria and Germany. He had gone to obtain information for the Allies, and, disguised as a Greek tobacco merchant, had visited the leading cities of both countries. "Lyki" had left Moscow as a profound pessimist who was convinced of the invincibility of the German arms. He returned full of optimism, quite certain that Germany was feeling the pinch more than Russia and that Russia could hold out far longer. As far as supplies were concerned he was, doubtless, right. What he had miscalculated was the difference in the resisting power of the two peoples.
His news, however, made Moscow cheerful, and for a few weeks he was a national hero. Still more encouraging was the reception of Prince Lvoff and Chelnokoff by the Emperor at his military headquarters in Moghilieff. The visit had been arranged by General Alexeieff, the Chief of the General Staff and a sturdy patriot, who had a soldier's contempt for the average Russian politician. When the Grand Duke Nicholas was commander-in-chief, the Cities and Zemstvos Unions had always addressed their petitions to him personally. Their relations with the Emperor had been less happy. Disliking the various political resolutions which they had passed, he had hitherto refused to see them. On this occasion, therefore, they came to Moghilieff to see General Alexeieff and not the Emperor. As Mayor of Moscow Chelnokoff brought with him the greetings of the "heart of Russia" to the army and an official resolution of the City Duma affirming that no peace must be made until complete victory had been attained. General Alexeieff, knowing the immense work these great public organisations were doing in equipping the army with every kind of supply, was determined to restore good relations between the Emperor and the two Unions.
"The Emperor's all right," he informed the two Muscovites bluntly. "The only trouble is the band of b----- who surround him. You wait here, and I'll take the resolution to him."
Presently he returned with the order that Chelnokoff was to enter the Imperial presence. When the broad-shouldered Mayor limped into the room, the resolution was lying on the Emperor's table.
"Why was this excellent resolution not sent to me direct?" asked the Tsar.
Chelnokoff stammered out some clumsy excuse about etiquette and said that, if His Imperial Majesty would allow him, he would offer him the greeting there and then. He then stood up and in his best official manner conveyed Moscow's loyal greetings to the Emperor and read the resolution. The Tsar was greatly pleased.
"I agree with everything in this resolution," he said. "Peace will not be made until complete victory is attained. You are right, too, in expressing your gratitude to the army. We should go down on our knees before it!"
The Tsar then questioned Chelnokoff about the situation in Moscow. The Mayor replied that there was no fuel and not enough to eat because the railways were being run so badly and that, in these circumstances, rioting during the winter months was a possibility that could not be excluded. The Emperor replied that, if people were cold and had not enough to eat, one could not be too severe on them if they complained with violence. He asked rather suspiciously if the Mayor were not exaggerating.
Chelnakoff replied: "No."
The Tsar then said: "Everything I can do to alleviate this situation will be done."
I received a full account of this visit from Chelnokoff as soon as he returned to Moscow. Both Prince Lvoff and he---grave, bearded men with no frivolities in their lives---were as pleased as schoolboys. They had returned from the "Stavka" with a whole heartful of optimism. The Emperor had been splendid. Their own work was now to go forward unimpeded. The army was on their side. What, then, did St. Petersburg matter? The army was more important, more powerful, than any Government.
Alas! the high hopes raised by this visit were to he rudely shattered. Impending tragedy would not allow the Emperor to deviate from the fate which had been marked out for him. A. little common-sense, a few words of praise, on the Emperor's part, would have been sufficient to strengthen the ties of personal loyalty, to chain to his throne the patriotic fervour of the vast bulk of the people of Russia. How small was the effort required I had seen in the enthusiasm of these two public leaders, who, considerably less revolutionary in temperament than Mr. Lloyd George, were to be driven unwillingly into revolution and to become its first victims. The effort, however, was beyond the Emperor's capacity of vision. The old system continued. The national effort was cramped in every way. Every minister who sympathised with it was sooner or later certain to be dismissed. And as, one by one, the patriots and the men of confidence disappeared, the allegiances of three hundred years were undermined by despair. In my own mind the feeling of inevitable disaster became stronger and stronger. Yet in public I had always to appear ultra-optimistic, calm and resolute, and unshakeably convinced of the ultimate victory of the Allies. If my real optimism was confined to the West, I had to simulate increasing confidence in the East. And after a time a smile which has no heart behind it becomes visibly artificial.
In February, 1916, I was summoned several times to St. Petersburg. We had a new scheme on foot: an official British propaganda office in St. Petersburg to be run by British journalists. Hugh Walpole and Harold Williams (greatest and most modest of all British experts on Russia) were its chief sponsors.
There was to be a sub-office in Moscow. This was to he under my charge, and as my propaganda officer I engaged the versatile Lykiardopoulos. In St. Petersburg the propaganda bureau was a very official organisation with special offices and a proper staff. I ran my organisation in Moscow from the Consulate-General without any flourish of trumpets and without the knowledge of the outside world. In this way I was able to bring considerable influence to bear on the local newspapers without their feeling that they were being inundated with official propaganda. This part of my work I enjoyed, although here, too, great tact was necessary, especially when it came to the selection of Moscow journalists for the literary mission which, as part of the new policy, we were sending to England. The bright idea was that when these scribes had seen the tremendous efforts being made by England, they would write them up in the Russian Press, and we should then hear less about Britain keeping her navy in a glass case and about our willingness to fight to the last drop of Russian blood. One writer whom I invited, or was instructed to invite, was Count A. N. Tolstoy, a sleek Bohemian with a great literary talent but a strong predilection for the creature comforts of life. Today, in order to retain these comforts, Count Tolstoy has made his peace with the Bolsheviks and, at the expense of a play or two against the Romanoffs, has succeeded in remaining a bourgeois individualist in a country where even literature has been communised.
It was at this moment that I received a telegram from Sir George Buchanan requesting me to make arrangements for the reception of a British naval mission which, as part and parcel of the new propaganda policy, was being sent to Moscow. I received exactly two days' notice of this visit. No information was vouchsafed me regarding the source from which I was to draw the financial sinews for the entertainment of His Britannic Majesty's Senior Service. This conundrum is one of the rare problems which the British Government leaves invariably to the initiative and to the pocket of the man on the spot. All I knew was that the seven leading officers of our submarine flotilla in the Baltic---all very gallant gentlemen, who had sunk several German cruisers and innumerable smaller craft---would arrive on February 15th and would spend four days in Moscow. They had received instructions to put themselves unreservedly in my hands.
Both the British colony and my Russian friends rallied to my support with remarkable spontaneity and generosity. In one afternoon I completed my programme. My old friend Chelnokoff promised a "rout" at the Town Duma. Madame Nossova, the sister of the Riabushinski brothers, the richest millionaires in Moscow, undertook to provide a whole evening's entertainment at her house, with dinner for a hundred people and dancing afterwards. Princess Gagarina arranged a reception. The Intendant of the Imperial Theatre provided at the shortest notice a special gala performance at the opera. Baleieff, the owner of the "Bat," and the Moscow Artists' Club undertook to amuse the guests in their own exhilarating and invincible manner. The British Club, without whose aid my own efforts to entertain distinguished British visitors would have been unavailing, arranged the first of those sumptuous Anglo-Russian banquets which right up to the revolution provided the flesh and bones ---not to mention the caviar and vodka---of Anglo-Russian friendship in Moscow.
The visit was a complete success. The Navy may now have fallen on evil days, but my own experience of British naval officers abroad has been of the happiest. Far better than Army officers do they understand the gentle art of placating and impressing the foreigner. They can relax without loss of dignity. There are few brass hats and few brass heads among them.
My seven submarine officers adapted themselves to their new role of public performers with remarkable skill. They had come to be "lionised," but they were tame and friendly lions. They allowed themselves to be stroked. They fraternised with the ballerinas and with the officials. And Cromie, their leader and an officer grave beyond his years, roared on one occasion with splendid effect. The occasion was the supper given by the Alatr---an artists' and actors' club---in honour of our youthful guests. The supper was accompanied by an impromptu entertainment during which the best dancers and singers Moscow could provide had danced and sung for the good of our digestion. When the evening was well advanced, nothing would satisfy the Russians but that Cromie should make a speech. He was taken up on to the small stage. A tall, dark, Byronesque figure with heavy eyebrows and side-whiskers, he faced his audience without a tremor.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said. "You are all artists---musicians, poets, novelists, painters, composers. You are creators. What you create will live long after you. We are only simple sailors. We destroy. But we can say truthfully that in this way we destroy in order that your works may live!'
It was the shortest and in the effect it produced the most impressive speech I ever heard in Russia.
The Russians were delighted. The visit of the submarine officers coincided with the capture of Erzerum by the Russian army in the Caucasus, and for four days we lived in an atmosphere of jubilant optimism. As far as I was concerned, there was only one flaw in a programme which was carried out with harmonious smoothness. At the British Club dinner I made my first big speech. For two days I had rehearsed it before my wife and the faithful "Lyki," who as secretary of the Moscow Art Theatre was an expert in elocution. I delivered it with emotion and modesty. There was a touching reference to those who in the literal sense of the words go down to the sea in ships. My oratory drew tears from my audience and from myself. But to my chagrin my speech was not reported. The Russian naval staff, fearful of what might happen to the Baltic Fleet if the Germans were to know that the British submarine commanders were absent from their ships, had imposed the strictest censorship on the whole visit.
With the departure of the naval mission Moscow returned to its primordial pessimism---a depression distinct from the pessimism of St. Petersburg in that it was free from malevolent pacifism. Moscow was prepared to fight to the end. It could not help feeling that the end was likely to be disastrous.
At this particular moment these forebodings were aggravated by the German offensive against Verdun and by the influx of aristocratic Polish refugees into Moscow. These Poles were an unhealthy influence. Superficially, they were attractive. They added to the amenities of Moscow social life. Their passion for political discussion provided fresh material for my reports. But, much as I was inclined to sympathise with their sufferings, closer acquaintance changed my sympathy into mistrust and even dislike. I found it natural that they should hate Russia. I could not tolerate the manner in which they accepted the warm hospitality that was offered to them everywhere and which they repaid by sneering at their hosts and hostesses and by affecting to despise the good Moscow bourgeois. Still less could I stomach their self-centred vanity and their pessimism. The climax came when, one evening, during the most critical period of the Verdun offensive, a frivolous but vain princeling remarked in the presence of the head of the French military mission: If Verdun is taken, Paris, too, will fall. What a terrible thing that will be for the Polish question." This is only one of many examples of Polish tactlessness. Yet these people, who have never been able to help themselves and who certainly contributed little to the Allied cause in the war, have been rewarded with the largest slice of territory granted to any nation under the Treaty of Versailles.
IN that spring of 1916 I had throat trouble again. This time it was accompanied by a bad attack of depression. Everything seemed to be going wrong. Even Chelnokoff had complained to me about the failure of English firms to fulfil their war contracts, and for the first time I began to question the ability of the Allies to win through. My gloom was only partly relieved by a surprise visit from Hugh Walpole, resplendent in a Red Cross uniform and as tremendously enthusiastic and as refreshingly sentimental as ever. He had just returned from England, where the first of his Russian books, "The Dark Forest," had had a great success. He brought me sugar and spice in the form of complimentary appreciation of my work from Lord Robert Cecil and other members of the Foreign Office. When he left, my depression returned, and with the arrival of Easter my wife induced me to take a few days' rest.
In order that I might have a change from Moscow, we went down to Sergievo, to the famous Monastery. The indispensable Alexander had made the most elaborate preparations for our reception. Actually there was not much rest about our visit. We arrived on Thursday evening in Holy Week and were met at the station by a monk. By another monk we were driven straight from the station to a long service. The monastery itself, the most famous in Russia, was a miniature Kremlin, surrounded by a wall which was broad enough to allow two carriages to drive abreast along its cobbled stones. The place had stood a hundred sieges in the course of its history, and but for the presence of the monks was much more like a fortress than a place of worship.
After the service we had tea with the Abbot---a fine, simple old gentleman with a flaxen beard and soft, spongy hands which he washed incessantly. It was nearly seven o'clock before we were allowed to seek our quarters---a little monastery hotel attached to the Church of the Chernigoff Madonna about a mile from the Monastery. Fortunately, it was very clean and comfortable.
On Good Friday the rain came down in torrents, and I stayed indoors all day and read the Sir Roger de Coverley papers from the "Spectator." On the Saturday, however, we were plunged again into a round of sight-seeing and religious services. Early in the morning a monk waited on us to drive us to the Bethlehem Monastery---a beautiful little place beside a lake about three miles away. Then in the evening we drove through the birch woods to attend the midnight service at the Lavra itself. The whole Monastery was illuminated by electric light, and against the deep purple background of the sky the huge belfry stood out like a giant skyscraper. The service was impressive. For over an hour we stood in an evil-smelling crowd of soldiers and peasants all holding candles and tapers and sprinkling themselves and us liberally with candle-grease. So ineffable, however, was the singing that we never felt the fatigue.
The next two days were sheer joy. There was a warmth in the sun which banished all my fears and all my pessimism. The whole countryside was a mass of primroses and cowslips. White churches nestled peacefully in a background of birch trees. Above all, there were lakes with perch and carp as old as time itself. After Moscow the peacefulness of it all was wonderful.
On Easter Monday we attended another service and took part in a procession round the great wall of the Lavra, walking in the place of honour just behind the Archimandrites. We had, too, a stupendous luncheon, consisting of some six or seven courses of different fish, with the Abbot, and while we ate, he spoke good words to us. In his conversation there was nothing martial, no "God with us" boastfulness. He spoke of miracles, in which he was a firm believer---and, indeed, if Russia was to win the war, a belief in miracles was necessary---and of the virtues of Christian submission and of a contrite and holy spirit.
For the most part, however, we made long trips into the country, extracting the maximum of enjoyment from our stolen leisure and reaping the full benefit from the glorious sunshine. One drive, in particular, I remember very vividly---a long, rambling adventure along a narrow, disused track to a lake beyond the St. Paraclete Monastery. Our way ran through a narrow gorge covered with gorse and brambles, and neither coming nor going did we pass a living soul. It was almost the most perfect hour of complete contentment that I can remember.
I returned to Moscow full of energy and fresh hope and better able to battle with the irritations of my daily life. For, much as I loved my Russian friends, they were irritating. They were a charming people to know, a hopeless people to work with, and, fatalistic as I became, I never quite mastered the nuances of a language in which "at once" means "tomorrow," and "tomorrow," "never."
I cannot illustrate better the difference between the Russian and the English attitudes towards life than by a reference to a Russian trial which took place at this time. In some of its aspects it bears a certain resemblance to the famous Malcolm trial in England. In Warsaw a Russian police officer called Zlatoustovsky had fallen in love with a certain Madame Marchevsky, the wife of an officer who was fighting for his country at the front. When Warsaw was evacuated, Zlatoustovsky (his name in Russian means golden-mouthed!) brought the woman to Moscow and took her to live with him in his own flat. Warned by a letter from the police officer's wife, Marchevsky came back from the front and tried to break into Zlatoustovsky's flat. Zlatoustovsky then emptied his revolver through the door and killed Marchevsky, who was unarmed. In spite of the bad conduct of the police officer in the whole case, he was acquitted. Public opinion made no protest against the verdict, nor did Zlatoustovsky lose his job.
Renewing my contact with Chelnokoff and the other Moscow leaders, I found them more depressed than usual. The resignation of Polivanoff, the War Minister, who had been dismissed for his too friendly co-operation with the public organisations, had made them down-hearted. The fall of Kut, following on our failure in Gallipoli, and the Easter rising in Dublin had been a severe blow to British prestige. Chelnokoff and I laid our heads together. What could we do to stimulate public confidence? How could we checkmate defeatism and lack of faith in the Western Allies? The Mayor, whose Anglophilism was proof against all shocks, suggested an official visit of the British Ambassador to Moscow. I said I was sure he would come if the visit would do good.
"We might give him the freedom of the city of Moscow," said Chelnokoff.
"Excellent," I replied; "it is in the best English tradition."
There was, however, one drawback. Only one foreigner had ever been made a freeman of Moscow. The honour had never been conferred on an Englishman. It was a rare and precious gift, and it could be conferred only by a unanimous vote of the Town Council. Now the Town Duma was a replica of the State Duma. It was composed of representatives of all the political parties, including the extreme Right, which was not very pro-English and definitely opposed to the Liberal Parties. It was quite impossible for Chelnokoff, even as Mayor, to obtain a unanimous decision. He stroked his long, patriarchal beard. Then, in his fine, deep voice, he gave me his considered opinion.
"I know my colleagues," he said. "They are like children. They will never accept a suggestion coming from me. But if you go to see the various leaders separately, tell them that Sir George Buchanan is coming to Moscow, and let them think that the suggestion of the freedom comes from them---well, if you do your work cleverly, they will jump at it."
I carried out the plan exactly as he prescribed. I saw Nikolai Guchkoff, Victor Brianski, and the other refractory leaders, and with the unanimous decision of the Duma in my pocket I went to see the Ambassador.
The visit, on my suggestion, took place on Empire Day. It was, I believe, the first occasion on which Empire Day was celebrated officially in Russia, and it was from first to last an immense success. The whole city showed a united front in welcoming the Ambassador. "Black Hundred" lions lay down with "Cadet" lambs. Octobrists and Social-Revolutionaries vied with one another in the vehemence of their protestations of friendship and of their determination to fight to a victorious end. The generals and officials fell over each other in their eagerness to contribute their share to the festivities. I wrote an Empire leader for the leading Moscow newspaper. Obviously, even at that moment, I was qualifying for my Empire Crusader's badge. I wrote an appreciation of Sir George Buchanan for the second most important Moscow newspaper. I persuaded the Ambassador to write his speech beforehand, enlisted the services of Lykiardopoulos; to translate it, and had a beautifully printed Russian translation served with the caviar to our distinguished Russian guests. At the Empire banquet that evening I proposed the Ambassador's health in a speech which a Moscow reporter described as a masterpiece of dignified eloquence and self-confidence. Alas! that was sixteen years ago.
The Ambassador himself, as the main arch in this glorious edifice, was splendid. He was the most elegant figure that Moscow had seen for several generations, and his gentle manner and his obvious sincerity went straight to every Russian heart. The happiest omens were augured from his Christian name. Was not St. George the patron Saint of Moscow? In that hour the tide of Anglo-Russian friendship was at the flood.
There was, in fact, only one slight hitch to mar the perfection of the setting. On the next night the City Fathers in solemn sitting, surrounded by all that was best and brightest in Moscow Society, formally conferred on his Super-Excellency Sir George Buchanan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of His Britannic Majesty to the Emperor of all the Russias, the title of honorary hereditary citizen of the city of Moscow. With the scroll of honour were conferred other more substantial gifts: a priceless ikon and a loving cup. In the heart of Russia it was necessary for our man to say at least a word or two in Russian. Alas! Sir George was no Russian scholar. "Benji" Bruce and I had reduced the formula to the least common denominator and we had carefully rehearsed the Ambassador to say, when he received the loving cup, "spasibo," which is the shortest and most colloquial Russian term for "thank you." When the fateful moment came, the Comptroller of tongues intervened, and in a firm but low voice Sir George was heard to say: "za pivo," which, being interpreted, means "for beer!"
No philological inexactitude, however, could mar the whirlwind success of those two triumphant days. Chelnokoff was elated. I was elated. We felt we had scotched the German in our midst. Sir George himself was quietly emotional and grateful. As I said good-bye to him on the station platform, he took my hand in his.
"Lockhart," he said, "this is the happiest day in my life, and I owe it all to you."
Sir George Buchanan's visit, as I see it now, was the turning point in my official career. It marked the zenith of my own influence with the Ambassador. It was the last occasion on which I was conscious of the youthful enthusiasm of hero-worship. True it is that it gave me a new confidence in my own ability. In the future I was to face the Foreign Office with the aggressiveness of a bumptious lion. But with increased confidence came a falling-away in my own character. I had become an oracle, and oracles are apt to be too cocksure. Perhaps at the time I was unconscious of my short-comings. Perhaps I scarcely realised the wearing effect of months of excessive work on a highly-strung temperament. Be this as it may, many of my ideals of 1914 had disappeared in the welter of inefficiency which surrounded me, and with their departure came a relaxation of my own self-discipline. The highest form of vanity is fame. I do not say that I have never had it, but it has never been able to compete with my passion for self-indulgence. The romance of the war had gone and with it all hope of a Russian victory. From now on there were to be no illuminating intervals to dispel the gloom which had settled like a pall over the prostrate body of Russia.
As far as my personal feelings were concerned, the first shock came within a few days of the Ambassador's departure. During his visit he had told me in strictest confidence---a confidence not to be broken even in the case of my wife---that Lord Kitchener was coming to Russia. The great man would visit Moscow. I was to hold myself in readiness to attend to all his desires. Even now I might begin discreetly to mark down in the antique shops any genuine examples of old china, in which Lord Kitchener was greatly interested.
Within the next few days half a dozen Russian journalists must have telephoned to ask me if the news were true. At my wife's weekly reception General Wogak, a charming, cultured soldier, who had at one time been military attaché in Peking and Washington, announced the visit, with its date and object, as if no secrecy were needed. Long before Kitchener had sailed from Scotland the news of his mission was common property in both St. Petersburg and Moscow.
I quote these indiscretions merely as an instance of the leakages that were so frequent in the Russia of these war days. I do not suggest that they bore any relation to the fate of the ill-starred Hampshire.
I never met Lord Kitchener. I am, therefore, not in a position to say authoritatively what he might or might not have done in Russia. I venture, however, to doubt the opinion, so frequently expressed by English writers on Russia, that, if he had come face to face with the Tsar, the whole course of the war would have been changed. I have little faith in the great man theory---perhaps because I have the valet mind. The strength of nations is in their collective force. Strong nations produce strong men. Weak nations go to the wall. But, even admitting that Kitchener was a superman, I do not believe that his influence on the Tsar would have been more than ephemeral. Even strong men cannot compete with nature. In any case, his visit would have been too late. The inexorable hand of Fate was already stretched out over the ruling class of Russia.
Nevertheless, the tragedy of Kitchener was a disaster which aggravated the sickness of the Russian body and the faintness of the Russian heart.
It was followed by another shock which had even more serious repercussions on the Russian situation. Early in August, Sazonoff, the pro-Ally Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, resigned or, to be accurate, was forced to resign. The circumstances of his dismissal were similar to those in which other loyal and pro-war ministers had been dismissed. For some time he had felt insecure. He had, therefore, been to the Stavka (Russian headquarters) to see the Emperor. He had been delighted with his reception. On his return to St. Petersburg his train had crossed the train bearing M. Stürmer, the most unpopular of all the Tsar's Prime Ministers, to headquarters. Almost before M. Sazonoff reached St. Petersburg the Emperor had reversed his plans. M. Sazonoff was requested to take a holiday in Finland. His dismissal followed soon afterwards. The forces of darkness had triumphed once again.
M. Sazonoff was an honest, if not a great, man. He had been most loyal in his co-operation with Sir George Buchanan and M. Paléologue, the French Ambassador. He had sought to work with the Duma and was trusted by the public organisations. His name figured in every list of "cabinets of public confidence" which were the favourite pastime of the Liberals and the maxima of their demands at that time. A firm supporter of the monarchy, he was one of the few men whose advice, if it had been listened to, might have kept the last Romanoff on his throne. His place in the Russian Foreign Office was taken by Stürmer himself, and even in the drawing-rooms of the Grand Dukes the new appointment was received with scowls and bitterness. Under the strain of so much madness the last props of Tsardom were falling away. Amongst the patriots depression assumed the proportions of hopelessness.
Sazonoff has embellished the history of diplomacy with one imperishable anecdote. I did not hear him tell it. When I saw him again in Prague some years after the revolution, he neither admitted nor denied its authenticity. I am assured, however, that the story is true in substance, if not in detail. This is the generally accepted version:
There had been a dinner-party at the British Embassy at which both Sazonoff and the French Ambassador were present. After dinner the three "big shots"---Sazonoff, Sir George Buchanan and M. Paléologue---had retired to the Ambassador's study to discuss the situation over their cigars. The conversation had turned to diplomacy. What nation supplied the finest diplomatists? M. Paléologue, who was a Frenchman and therefore a flatterer, was loud in his praise of the Russians. Sir George, who was a Scot and, therefore, strictly honest, gave his vote to the Germans. They argued the point without being able to agree and finally appealed to Sazonoff. The Russian smiled.
"Your Excellencies," he said, "are both wrong. In my opinion there can be no question of dispute. The palm belongs surely to the English."
M. Paléologue, already sufficiently jealous of Sir George, made a sour face. Sir George's eyes registered an innocent astonishment.
Again Sazonoff smiled.
"You would like my explanation. When I have given it, you will admit that my argument is irresistible. We Russians---and I thank M. Paléologue for his compliment---are a talented race. We are admirable linguists. Our sources of knowledge are unlimited. Unfortunately, however, we cannot trust ourselves. There is no continuity about our work. We never know what our most trusted Ambassadors are going to do next. They may fall a hopeless victim to the first unscrupulous woman, and in that condition they are capable of selling the ciphers to the enemy.
"Now the Germans are just the reverse. They are admirable workers. They are all continuity. But they begin laying their plans so many years beforehand that, long before the plot is hatched, the whole world knows what they intend to do.
"The whole art of diplomacy is to mask one's intentions. And that is where the English excel. No one ever knows what they intend to do"---here the Russian stroked his beard and smiled affectionately at Sir George---"because they never know themselves."
Assuredly, the dismissal of a man who knew the Allies so well was a heavy loss to the Allied cause.
THE story of the next few months leading up to the first revolution is a chronicle of almost unrelieved pessimism: failures on the front (the Brusiloff offensive against Austria had flattered only to deceive), boredom and ennui in official. circles in the rear, bewildering changes of ministers, impotent protestations by the Duma, increasing discontent and murmurs not only in the villages but also in the trenches.
In St. Petersburg and even in Moscow the war had become of secondary importance. The approaching cataclysm was already in every mind, and on everybody's lips. The ruling class, awakened at last to the impending disaster, sought to warn the Emperor. Political resolutions, passed now not only by the Liberals, but by the nobility, were showered like autumn leaves upon the Emperor. There was no disloyalty in these addresses. They merely begged the Tsar to change his counsellors, to replace them with men enjoying the confidence of the country. The Emperor made changes with the rapidity of a card-trick expert, but very rarely did they satisfy public opinion. On no occasion were they ever made in response to the demand, however discreetly made, of a public body. For this man of all the domestic virtues, this man of no vices and no will-power, was an autocrat by divine right. He could change his mind four times in as many minutes, but he could never forget his inheritance.
"What is all this talk about the people's confidence?" he said. "Let the people merit my confidence!"
During these last six months of the monarchy my Consulate-General became a kind of post-box for complaints. My time was occupied in translating resolutions---today I still have scores of them among my private papers---and lampoons. At this time there was a salon poet called Miatlieff, a cavalry officer with a knack for versification, which he employed to attack the more unpopular members of the government. I translated the resolutions into prose. I paraphrased Miatlieff into English doggerel. I sent both prose and verse to the Embassy. In the end it must have been wearied by my wasted energy.
The tragedy was that both the resolutions and the lampoons were written by men who had no thought of revolution in their hearts, who earnestly desired a more efficient prosecution of the war, and who today, if they were alive, would give their right hand to replace the Emperor or, at least, an Emperor on the throne of Russia.
As far as Moscow is concerned, I do not exaggerate. I was in almost daily contact with the men who, sorely against their wish, formed the first provisional government after the abdication of the Tsar: Prince Lvoff, Chelnokoff, Manuiloff, Avinoff, Maklaoff, Novikoff, Kokoshkin. From intimate personal intercourse I knew that they were appalled by the problem which confronted them as Russian patriots. The problem itself was very succinctly put by Maklakoff, the famous Russian orator and subsequent ambassador of the Provisional Government in Paris, in one of those parables in which, owing to the censor, Russians were experts. A motor-car is going down a steep hill. At the bottom there is a yawning precipice. Your mother is seated in the front seat next to the driver. You yourself are in the back seat. Suddenly you realise that the driver has lost control. What are you to do?
As one of those quandaries set as a competition in the popular Press, it would have been an interesting conundrum, which would have evoked entirely satisfactory answers from Mr. Lansbury, Sir Malcolm, Campbell, Miss Ethel Mannin, Lord Castlerosse, and Lady Inverclyde; in the life of a nation, plunged in the vortex of a world war, it was a matter of life or death. In this case there was no attempt at a solution. The driver was left to run his car over the precipice.
During that torrid summer visitors came to Moscow and went---English generals, Locker-Lampson's armoured car unit, English journalists, the Grand Duke Michael, the brother of the Tsar. I entertained the English visitors and listened to their views. I had a long and rather futile conversation with the Grand Duke Michael when he came to a private show of some French war films. In his Cossack uniform he made a pleasant impression. A tall, handsome figure of a man with charming manners and an easy-going disposition, he struck me as a prince who might have made an excellent constitutional monarch. He talked quite freely about the war, about the lack of munitions and the need for an improved transport system, but he made only one remark which could be interpreted as political. "Thank God," he said, "the atmosphere at the front is far better than the atmosphere of St. Petersburg." He was the quietest and perhaps the least confident of all the Grand Dukes.
When summer passed into winter there were more visits to the Embassy. There was one gala dinner given by Sir George Buchanan to Chelnokoff and a small deputation of the Moscow Duma---a return for the hospitality lavished on the Ambassador during his Moscow visit. Chelnokoff and I travelled to St. Petersburg together. At the dinner he singled me out for special praise, greeting me in his speech as a true friend of Russia.
I was invited to luncheon by the French Ambassador. I had a one-sided conversation with Sazonoff, who asked many questions and vouchsafed no information. The young man from Moscow was an object of interest.
But---and it was a big but---I found the atmosphere of St. Petersburg more depressing than ever. Champagne flowed like water. The Astoria and the Europe---the two best hotels in the capital---were thronged with officers who should have been at the front. There was no disgrace in being a "shirker" or in finding a sinecure in the rear. I had an impression of senseless ennui and fin de siècle. And in the streets were the long queues of ill-clad men and garrulous women, waiting for the bread that never came. Even in the Embassy hope had sunk to a low ebb. Sir George himself looked tired and ill. He still wore his hat at the same rakish angle. Never for one moment did he relax his optimism in the presence of the Russians. But, when he walked, his shoulders drooped as though his burdens were more than he could bear. In the Chancery there were signs of frayed nerves---the inevitable result of long months of monotonous and profitless work. My own conduct was puerile and reprehensible. I protracted my visits longer than was necessary, making bogus excuses of work in order to go to Russian parties and to be entertained by those whom I had entertained in Moscow. I drank the champagne---more than was good for me---of those I criticised, and I returned to Moscow ashamed and unhappy. My life at this moment gave me no satisfaction.
With the advent of December the tone of the various anti-government resolutions became bolder. In the factories the Social-Democrats and the Social-Revolutionaries were now conducting an active revolutionary propaganda. Goaded to fury by the inanities of Protopopoff---a former Liberal member of the Duma, who as Minister of the Interior revealed himself as more reactionary than any member of the Black Hundred, the Zemstvo and Cities Unions defied his action in forbidding their Congress by passing a secret resolution which in the violence of its language exceeded all their previous political demands. There was, it is true, no word against the Emperor, but after a long preamble, in which full emphasis was laid on the ills from which Russia was suffering, the resolution declared that "the government, now become an instrument of the dark forces, is driving Russia to her ruin and is shattering the Imperial throne. In this grave hour in its history the country requires a government worthy of a great people. Let the Duma, in the decisive struggle which it is waging, justify the expectations of the people. There is not a day to lose!"
This document was only secret in so far as it was forbidden to be published. It was circulated in reneoscript in thousands of copies, both at the front and in the rear.
This resolution was passed just before Christmas. Two days before the end of the year Rasputin was assassinated. The story has been told too often to bear retelling. Of the three participants in this perhaps mistaken act of patriotism only the Grand Duke Dmitri was known to me personally at the time. All three---the two others were Prince Felix Yusupoff and M. Purishkewitch---were supporters of the old régime. Their act was intended to save the old régime. Although for a moment it raised the hopes of the patriots, its only effect, viewed today in the light of history, was to assist the anti-war elements and to hasten the revolution, which unbiased observers had long realised was sooner or later inevitable.
The only person to benefit from this assassination was the Grand Duke Dmitri---the best-intentioned and most pro-English of the Grand Dukes. The banishment to the Caucasus which his complicity in the murder brought down upon his head enabled him to escape through Persia when the revolution broke out, and to avoid the terrible fate which was meted out by the Bolsheviks to so many of his relations.
Before the lamp of Tsardom was finally extinguished, it was to flicker up in one last feeble flame of hope. Towards the end of January, 1917, an inter-Allied delegation arrived in St. Petersburg. The object of this visit was to secure a more efficient co-operation between the Allies, to put the final dots on the "i's" of the peace terms, and to consecrate the victory which was always on the lips of the French and English and in which so few Russians now believed. Rarely in the history of great wars can so many important ministers and generals have left their respective countries on so useless an errand. The British Mission was the largest. It was headed by Lord Milner, who had with him as his political advisers Lord Revelstoke and George Clerk [NOTE: 'Now Sir George Clerk, H.M. Ambassador to Turkey], and as his military advisers Sir Henry Wilson and five other generals. The French were more economical. They sent only one politician---M. Doumergue---and two generals, one of whom, however, was the gallant Castelnau. The Italian mission was headed by Signor Scialoja, who was supported by General Ruggieri.
In the presence of so much magnificence my own little star sank into insignificance. Nevertheless, I had my part in the proceedings. The mission was to visit Moscow, and I was summoned to St. Petersburg to discuss the situation and arrange the programme with Lord Milner. Moscow, as usual, had set high store by the arrival of the delegation, hoping for some last-minute action by the Allies which would restore the fallen fortunes of Russia. Such hopes as may have been raised in my own breast were shattered as soon as I arrived in St. Petersburg. I lunched with Lord Milner at the British Embassy. I had a long talk with him in the afternoon, and in the evening I dined alone with him in his rooms at the Europe. I think he was glad to escape at least for one night from the interminable round of festivity to which he and the other delegates were being subjected. Of all the great figures in public life with whom I have come into contact, I found him the most understanding and sympathetic. He was, too, extraordinarily well informed about facts and figures, which he seemed to carry in his head without effort. I doubt if his intuition was as remarkable as his knowledge. But from the first day of his arrival he had realised the inefficiency of the Russians, and he made no attempt to conceal his opinion that he was wasting his time. He looked tired and overworked, but he listened to me with infinite patience. He was, I believe, at his best with young men, and I, like most other young men, fell at once before his charm. He asked me several questions, and I gave him my opinion candidly: that if some concession was not made to public opinion trouble was inevitable. He sighed.
"I do not say you are wrong," he said gently. "But I am bound to tell you two things. First, the general consensus of informed opinion, both Allied and Russian, in St. Petersburg, so far as I can gather, is that there will be no revolution until after the war. And, secondly, I see no means of enforcing the concessions to which you refer."
The next day I returned to Moscow, and Lord Milner resumed his place at the conference table. And, while the delegates were discussing Constantinople, Alsace-Lorraine, and the spoils of war, there were riots round the bread-shops, workmen were being arrested by the Ochrana, and in the entourage of the Imperial family frightened women were repeating the prophecy of Rasputin: "If I die or you abandon me, you will lose your son and your throne within six months."
A week later Lord Milner, accompanied by Lord Revelstoke and George Clerk, came to Moscow. (Sir Henry Wilson and the other British generals had gone to the front. Their visit was to come later.) To the end of his life Lord Milner never forgot those two days in Moscow. They were the last nail in the coffin of his discomfort. There was a reception at the Town Duma at which he had to make a speech and to present Chelnokoff with the K.C.M.G., which the King had conferred upon him as a reward for his services to the Anglo-Russian entente. (Poor Chelnokoff. This was the final hour of his reign as Mayor. When the revolution came, he had to flee the country, leaving his precious K.C.M.G. behind. Today, he is dying of cancer in the Belgrade Russian hospital. When I saw him there a few years ago, he expressed the wish that fresh insignia might be given to him. I tried to obtain a new Order for him through the Foreign Office and was informed that he would have to purchase it himself!) There was an Anglo-Russian luncheon, which lasted five hours , and at which various members of the Imperial Duma were determined to deliver their set speeches even at the risk of prolonging luncheon into dinner. The unfortunate Englishman, who understood no Russian and who, doubtless, would have liked to see something of the Kremlin and the ancient city, was chained to his duty from early morning to late night. I cannot congratulate myself on my staff work on this occasion.
And yet the visit was the occasion of one historical meeting. I arranged a private interview between Prince Lvoff and Chelnokoff on the one side and Lord Milner and George Clerk on the other. I acted as interpreter. Prince Lvoff, a quiet, grey-bearded man, tired out with overwork, spoke with great moderation. But lest there should be any doubt as to his views he brought a written memorandum with him. It was a long document, but the gist of it was that, if there was no change in the attitude of the Emperor, there would he a revolution within three weeks.
My duties were not ended when I had put Lord Milner to bed. I had my report to send to the Embassy. There was George Clerk, determined to see something of Moscow by night, and still young enough to sacrifice his sleep to his determination. Enlisting the services of a young Russian millionaire, we took him to a gipsy party---doubtless one of the last of the great gipsy parties celebrated under the monarchy. Goodness knows what it cost. I could not have paid. There were eight of us: four English and four Russians, and as the guest of honour George Clerk had to bear the brunt of the champagne bombardment. My young Russian millionaire did his best. Maria Nikolaievna sang countless "charochki," and with her own hands offered countless bumpers to George Clerk. As a diplomatist he has had many triumphs, but never has he borne himself more bravely than on that last evening in Moscow. He never refused a toast. He drank each one down in the approved Russian manner, and his monocle never moved. Not a hair of his head was ruffled. There was neither flush nor pallor on his cheeks.
In the early hours of the morning Prochoroff, my young millionaire officer, signed the bill and distributed the necessary largesse, and we set off home; my wife, George Clerk, "Jimmie" Valentine and I in one car; Prochoroff and his Russian friends showing the way in another. A quarter of a mile down the road we passed him. He had pulled up beside a policeman and was standing in the road. For George Clerk's edification we stopped to watch. Prochoroff was fumbling in his pockets. He pulled out his purse and handed a rouble to the policeman, who clicked his heels together and saluted. His hand on his sword, Prochoroff drew himself up to his full height. There was a sparkle in his eye, and he looked as though he were about to lead a charge.
"Boje Tsaria Khraneel" he thundered. "God save the Tsar," repeated the policeman. And "bye Jidoff!" (beat the Jews).
We drove on. Prochoroff did not hate the Jews. In so far as he had any political views he was a Liberal. But he would go on with his "God save the Tsar and beat the Jews" refrain all the way home. It was the prescribed ritual. It was the pre-revolutionary tradition.
Lord Milner and George Clerk having returned to St. Petersburg, we were promptly inflicted with the military invasion of Sir Henry Wilson and his brother officers. There was no political significance attached to this visit. Yet it nearly ruined my relations with my Russian friends and involved me in one of the most uncomfortable incidents in my official life.
The generals had come to Moscow, not for business but for relaxation. They had had their bellyful of official entertaining. In any case they were not interested in the political views of Moscow malcontents or, for that matter, of a beardless Consular officer. What could I do to amuse them? Could I arrange a small dinner and a dance for them? And, as they were fifteen strong, need I invite the husbands? This was the burden of my conversation with Sir Henry Wilson on his arrival, and, anxious to please so great a soldier, I rushed away to fulfil his commands.
I sought the assistance of my wife. She rang up the wives of the Russians who throughout the War had done most to help us to entertain the various English missions which had visited Moscow. With delicious zest they entered into the spirit of the adventure, and before luncheon time we had arranged an almost perfect party. Need I say that our invitations had been extended only to the young and pretty wives and that their husbands had not been taken into their confidence? Oh, egregious, overzealous youth!
The party was held in a private room in the Hermitage Restaurant. The food, the wines, were the best that Moscow could provide. The orchestra was Korsch, and in honour of the English guests Korsch played "Love Me and the World is Mine" with even more than his usual feeling. The party was a complete success. It was friendly. It was decorous. In the presence of such pillars of respectability as General Clive, Lord Duncannon (today Lord Bessborough), and Sir Henry Wilson himself, how could it have been otherwise? And yet in this fold of innocents there was one black sheep. Lord Brook asked if he might bring a friend to the dinner. She was unknown to my Moscow friends. She was an aristocrat. She had been divorced. Worst of all, she came from St. Petersburg.
Let me hasten to say that both she and Lord Brook behaved even more decorously than the most decorous member of this decorous gathering. But the mischief was done. And at an early hour next morning my telephone buzzed incessantly with calls from irate husbands demanding apologies for my conduct. The final blow came when my richest, most influential Russian friend called at the Consulate-General and asked to speak to me. He was shown into my room. He walked up to my desk and clicked his heels. There was a look of steel in his eyes.
"Roman Romanovitch," he said, "you were my friend. I consider it my duty to inform you that your conduct in inviting my wife without me last night was ungentlemanly. Goodbye."
And, righteously indignant, he strode out of the room.
It took me weeks of arduous attention to gather up the fragments of my broken friendships.
A FEW days later the assembled delegations left for England, France and Italy. There were no bands to play them off, no official farewells. They travelled via Murmansk, where the Kildonan Castle was waiting to pick them up, and, mindful of the fate of Kitchener, they kept the day and the hour of their departure secret. And, in order that the secret might be better guarded, they sacrificed their shoes, which, at the request of those responsible for their safety, were left outside their bedroom doors long after the occupants had stolen away.
There is a story current that on his return to England Lord Milner wrote a Cabinet report in which he expressed his firm conviction that there would be no revolution, and that before the ink on it was dry the revolution had already started.
I have been unable to verify the authenticity of this account, which was given to me by a Cabinet Minister. But for the respect in which I hold Lord Milner's memory, I should like to believe that it were true. It is an ending which flatters my complacency as much as it appeals to my sense of the dramatic. After all, I had given an accurate forecast, and it had been disregarded.
Truth, however, compels me to doubt if Lord Milner ever wrote such a report or made such a categorical expression of his opinion. The Foreign Office, it is true, was furnished with a report which began: "It may seem presumptuous in one who has spent only a fortnight in Russia," and which ended with a bold prophecy that there would be no revolution. But that report was not signed by Lord Milner.
Nor was there anything in Lord Milner's attitude during his Russian visit, or in the numerous conversations which I had with him, to give the impression that he had any confidence in the permanence of the Tsarist régime. What advice he gave to Mr. Lloyd George I do not know, but I cannot believe that it was optimistic. Sir Samuel Hoare, who accompanied the Milner Mission on its return journey to England and whose evidence cannot be lightly disregarded, is emphatic in his statement that all the members of the Mission were mistaken in almost all their conclusions and that their reports, written on the Kildonan Castle, were absurdly over-confident.
In spite of Sir Samuel's evidence I still maintain that Lord Milner's optimism must have been qualified. His Russian visit cast a gloom over him which could not have been dispelled by the exuberance of his subordinates. Certainly, there was no evidence of optimism in his subsequent letters to those British officials who remained in Russia. One quotation will suffice---an extract from a letter written to "Benji" Bruce, the head of the Embassy Chancery, a few weeks after Lord Milner had returned to London. It runs as follows: "Alas! alas! I fear all the Missions of British Labour leaders and all the compliments we have showered on the Russian revolution---'triumph of democracy,' 'the union of free peoples against the tyrants,' etc., etc., are perfectly futile. It is evident to me that, intentionally or not, Russia is going out of the war. It must be heartbreaking for your Chief, who has done so much in the past to cement the friendship between Russia and England, and who would have averted the catastrophe, which has actually occurred. if his advice had been listened to. Even now he seems to be managing wonderfully in a very difficult situation, but I fear no steering is of much avail in the teeth of such a typhoon."
This does not read much like optimism. One thing is certain. If this Mission did not open the eyes of its members to the state of Russia, it was useless even as an object-lesson to the Western Allies. As far as Russia was concerned, it might just as well have remained in London, Rome and Paris.
On March 12th, less than three weeks after the departure of the Allied delegates, the storm broke, and in a night a breadriot, similar to hundreds which had taken place during the previous twelve months, had become a revolution. In Moscow there was no bloodshed. There was no one left to defend the old régime. It was a bitterly cold day. Our house, which was central-heated, had been short of fuel for nearly a week, and I went out into the crowds in the street. My most vivid memory of that afternoon was the warmth of the surging mob before the Town Duma. There was no hooliganism. The crowd was willing enough to let me through, but before I reached the door I was roasting with heat and glad to take off my fur cap. I was the first foreigner to enter the Moscow headquarters of the revolution. Inside, the rooms and passages of the huge Town Hall were thronged with bands of students and soldiers ---the soldiers hot, greasy and officious; the students raucous and exultant. Nor was only youth in the ascendant. There were grey-bearded men, bent with years---men who had suffered exile, who had lived in mouse-holes, and who, with trembling knees and a strange light in their eyes, were now rejoicing over the hour of their triumph. The enthusiasm was compelling, almost infectious, but it was more impressive in the masses outside than in the delegates inside the building. I sought out Chelnokoff. He came out of the Council room to see me. Beads of sweat were standing on his brow. His limp was more pronounced than ever. His voice had gone.
"I'm fighting for my life, Roman Romanovitch," he said. "The Social-Revolutionaries and the Social-Democrats don't want me as Mayor. But, never fear, I'll master them yet. But it's a bad business-and not good for the war."
And with that he left me and returned to the battle of tongues which had now been unloosed. The man who yesterday had been too revolutionary for the Emperor was already too reactionary for the revolution.
On my way out I met Gruzinoff, the President of the Moscow Provincial Zemstvo. He had just been appointed to the command of the revolutionary troops. He, too, seemed embarrassed by the enthusiasm and hero-worship of the band of women students and high-school girls who surrounded him. The fire was travelling fast.
One other scene in that first day of good-tempered confusion remains clear-cut before my eyes. On my way home I met Harry Charnock in the street. For months he had been negotiating for the sale of the great Vicoul Morozoff textile works to a rich American group. As far as the Americans were concerned the contract would have been signed months before and the purchase money paid over. Charnock himself, who was general manager and stood to make a small fortune by the deal, had been in favour of signing, but the Morozoffs with peasant obstinacy had haggled and haggled until now it was too late. Laconically Charnock handed me a paper. It was a telegram from the Americans saying the deal was off. Big capital had taken fright.
As I passed through the Theatre Square, Socialist agitators, mostly students and schoolgirls, were distributing anti-war pamphlets to the troops. Opposite the National Hotel some one in the crowd recognised me. "Long live England," cried a student voice. "Long live England and the Revolution," answered the greasy mob. It was a disturbing and confusing day.
The story of the revolution has been told by many pens. It will be a theme for historians for all time. I do not propose to discuss it in detail except in so far as I myself was concerned in it. Nor do I intend to analyse its causes or speculate on what might have happened if Kerensky had done this on this date, and General Ivanoff that on that date. My own views on the revolution can be given in a single paragraph.
The revolution took place because the patience of the Russian people broke down under a system of unparalleled inefficiency and corruption. No other nation would have stood the privations which Russia stood for anything like the same length of time. As instances of the inefficiency, I give the disgraceful mishandling of food-supplies, the complete break-down of transport, and the senseless mobilisation of millions of unwanted and unemployable troops. As an example of the corruption, I quote the shameless profiteering of nearly every one engaged in the giving and taking of war contracts. Obviously, the Emperor himself, as a supreme autocrat, must bear the responsibility for a system which failed mainly because of the men (Stürmer, Protopopoff, Rasputin) whom he appointed to control it. If he had acted differently, if he had been a different man.... These arguments are childish.
What it is important to realise is that from the first the revolution was a revolution of the people. From the first moment neither the Duma nor the intelligentsia had any control of the situation. Secondly, the revolution was a revolution for land, bread and peace---but, above all, for peace. There was only one way to save Russia from going Bolshevik. That was to allow her to make peace. It was because he would not make peace that Kerensky went under. It was solely because he promised to stop the war that Lenin came to the top. It will be objected that Kerensky ought to have shot both Lenin and Trotsky. The soldiers, who argue in this way, always ignore the psychological premises. The old régime having broken down, the type of leader (i.e. a Kerensky) whom the first revolution threw up was bound to be a man who would not shoot his opponents. It was the first state of a natural process. Secondly, even if Kerensky had shot Lenin and Trotsky, some other anti-war leader would have taken their place and would have won through on his anti-war programme.
This was so fundamentally true of the Russian situation that only the gravity of our own situation in the West can excuse us for the folly of the various schemes (from the futile feebleness of the Archangel expedition to the greater, but, fortunately, unfulfilled stupidity of Japanese intervention) which we advocated for the reconstruction of the Eastern front. Among the foolish and the egregious I include myself. And among the soldiers General Macready stood alone in his sane commonsense.
My own contact with the first revolution lasted for eight months. It was a period of depression and disintegration, of a new activity from which all hope and faith had gone. I had been no admirer of the old régime, but I had little difficulty in realising what the effect of the new must be on the war. Three days. after the outbreak of the first rioting I sent off a long analysis of the revolutionary movement to the Embassy. The précis of this despatch entered in my Diary at the time runs as follows: "The position is so unclear and so uncertain that any attempt at prophecy is difficult. It seems impossible that the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat can be liquidated without further bloodshed. When this will come no one knows, but the outlook for the war is full of foreboding."
The revolution had begun on a Monday. On the Saturday I took part in my official capacity in a grand review of the revolutionary troops on the Red Square. It was an inspiring sight---40,000 troops celebrating a newly-won freedom by a march-past executed with perfect precision and order. And yet in spite of the cloudless sky and sparkling air I had a feeling as though I were in a prison. That vast Red Square, which has witnessed so much repression of freedom from the time of the executions of Ivan the Terrible to the May Day parades of the Bolsheviks, that grim background of high red wall furnished by the Kremlin---these are no symbols of liberty. Russians, as I was to learn later in even more disturbed times, have a genius for pageantry and processions. And if there was any tendency to over-enthusiasm on my part (and I am a romanticist who hates all governments by instinct), there were the generals---Liberal patriots like Obolesheff, who had just returned from the front---to supply the necessary correction. Discipline had disappeared. Men no longer saluted their officers. Deserters were seeking the villages in their thousands. The floodgates of three hundred years had been swept away. The tide was not to be stemmed by any individual effort until it had spent itself. Guided skilfully into less dangerous channels it might have been. But that was not the method of the Allies, who had greeted the revolution first with feigned enthusiasm and then with increasing alarm. They wanted---and on the part of the military advisers the wish was natural---things to be put back where they were before. And, unfortunately, there is no "as you were" either in time or in revolution.
A fortnight after the revolution I went to St. Petersburg to see the members of the new Provisional Government. Prince Lvoff, the Prime Minister, was my intimate friend. With most of the others I had been in close contact for the past two years. Men like Shingareff, a St. Petersburg doctor, Kokoshkin, the great Moscow expert on international law, and Manuiloff, the rector of Moscow University, were men of the highest integrity and ability. To the English Liberal Cabinet of 1906 they would have been an addition of strength and an ornament of distinction. They were too gentle to deal with the turbulent elements in the Soviets, which had made the revolution and which now virtually controlled the Duma.
Before catching my train, I dined with Chelnokoff, who had been appointed Commissar for Moscow. He gave me a forecast of what I might expect to find. His own position was becoming unbearable. He confessed that he had no chance of surviving the new elections, which now of course had been prescribed on a basis of universal suffrage for every municipality and every Zemstvo in Russia. Lvoff's reign, he said, would be no longer than his own.
The most phlegmatic of men, he spoke without anger or prejudice. I felt that he was right. Already "a free and unfettered democracy" (how later the Bolsheviks were to sneer at these slogans of the first revolution!) had no use for the Liberal leaders whose cry for years had been "trust the people."
I found Prince Lvoff at the Taurid Palace amid a scene of indescribable confusion. He had been presiding at a Cabinet meeting. Secretaries kept rushing into his room with papers to sign, decisions to be taken. He would start to talk to me, and then the telephone would ring. In the corridor outside, deputations from the front, from the villages, from goodness knows where, were waiting to see him. And in this restless, bustling turmoil there was not one man or woman who seemed capable of protecting the Prime Minister or relieving the burden on his shoulders. Every one seemed to be playing a game of general post to escape from responsibility. I longed for a Miss Stevenson to send the whole pack of delegations about their business and to put some order into this warren of chaos.
Our conversation was conducted in snatches. Finally he gave it up.
"You see how it is," he said. "We are doing our best, but there is so much to do. Come and see me to-night at my flat at twelve o'clock."
He ran his hand through his grey beard and looked at me with a flickering smile. He looked tired and wan, and his eyes, small at all times, had almost vanished behind his eyelids. In two weeks he had aged ten years. A man of great charm, he would have made an excellent chairman of the London County Council. He was an ideal President of the Zemstvo Unions, but he was not the stuff of which revolutionary Prime Ministers are made. And yet I doubt if at this period any member of his class could have "held down" his post. Nature brooks no interference with her processes, and the time for dictators had not yet come or had already passed.
I went to see Lvoff at his flat---a modest two-roomed affair where he had remained ever since the night he had arrived from Moscow to take over the reins of the Government. He was still in the same suit. The carpet bag, in which he had packed his clothes for the night, still stood in the hall. My heart went out to him. He seemed so forlorn and alone. As always, he spoke in his rather jerky little monotones. He was a shy man and, although he bore an aristocratic name, more like a country doctor than an aristocrat. To those who knew him slightly he gave an impression of cunning---due actually to his timidity. To those whom he trusted he was open and without restraint. He made no concealment of his fears and anxieties. Russia would come through, but ... Russia would carry on with the war, but ... His whole conversation was a confession of the weakness of his own position.
When I went to see my other Moscow friends in the government, I found the same helplessness, the same apprehensions. There was only one man in the Cabinet who had any power. That was the nominee of the Soviets---Kerensky, the Minister of Justice. The revolution had destroyed my old Liberal friends. Now I had to seek new gods.
IT was Prince Lvoff who arranged my first meeting with Kerensky. I could not have had a better introduction. Like most Socialists Kerensky admired and respected Lvoff as much for the integrity of his character as for the work he had done for the Russian people. I received an invitation to luncheon.
At the appointed hour my sleigh drew up before the Ministry of Justice, and I climbed up the long steps of the official staircase, where only three weeks before had reigned all the rigid ceremonial of the ancient régime, into an ante-chamber filled with a crowd of soldiers, sailors, legal functionaries, students, schoolgirls, workmen and peasants, all waiting patiently like one of the bread queues in the Liteinaia or the Nevsky. I pushed my way through the throng to a tired and much-harassed secretary.
"You wish to see Alexander Feodorovitch Kerensky? Quite impossible. You must come tomorrow."
I explain patiently that I am invited to luncheon. Again the machine-like voice breaks in: "Alexander Feodorovitch has gone to the Duma. I have no idea when he will be back. In these days you know... ."
He shrugs his shoulders. Then, almost before I have time to allow the disappointment to show on my face, the crowd surges forward. "Stand back, stand back," shout the soldiers. Two nervous and very young adjutants clear a passage, and in half a dozen energetic strides Kerensky is beside me. His face has a sallow and almost deathly pallor. His eyes, narrow and Mongolian, are tired. He looks as if he were in pain, but the mouth is firm, and the hair, cropped close and worn en brosse, gives a general impression of energy. He speaks in quick, jerky sentences with little sharp nods of the head by way of emphasis. He wears a dark suit, not unlike a ski-ing kit, over a black Russian workman's blouse. He takes me by the arm and leads me into his private apartments, and we sit down to luncheon at a long table with almost thirty places. Madame Kerensky is already lunching. By her side are Breshkovskaia, the grandmother of the Russian Revolution, and a great brawny-armed sailor from the Baltic Fleet. People drift in and out at will. Luncheon is a floating meal and it seems to be free to all. And all the while Kerensky talks. In spite of the Government prohibition order there is wine on the table, but the host himself is on a strict diet and drinks nothing but milk. Only a few months previously he has had a tubercular kidney removed. But his energy is undiminished. He is tasting the first fruits of power. Already he resents a little the pressure that is being put on him by the Allies. "How would Lloyd George like it if a Russian were to come to him to tell him how to manage the English people?" He is, however, good-natured. His enthusiasm is infectious, his pride in the revolution unbounded. "We are only doing what you have done centuries ago, but we are trying to do it better---without the Napoleon and without the Cromwell. People call me a mad idealist, but thank God for the idealists in this world!' And at the moment I was prepared to thank God with him.
Since that first luncheon I have had many meetings with Alexander Feodorovitch. In Russia I suppose I knew him better ---far better indeed---than any other British official. I interpreted for him on several occasions in his negotiations with Sir George Buchanan. I saw him frequently alone. It was to me that he came when he was in hiding from the Bolsheviks. It was I who was instrumental in getting him out of Russia. And today, when thousands of anti-Bolshevik Russians---and English, too---revile him; when the men and women who sought his favour and leant upon his words curse his name, I have remained his friend.
Kerensky was the victim of the bourgeois hope, which his short-lived success aroused. He was an honest, if not a great, man---sincere in spite of his oratorical talents, and, for a man who for four months was worshipped as a god, comparatively modest. From the start he was fighting a hopeless battle, trying to drive back into the trenches a nation which had already finished with the war. Caught between the cross-fires of the Bolshevik Left, which was screaming peace at every street-corner and in every trench, and of the Right and of the Allies, who were demanding the restoration of discipline by Tsarist methods, he had no chance. And he fell, because whoever had tried to do what he did was bound to fall.
Yet for a few weeks it seemed that his oratory might work a miracle and that his ridiculous belief (shared by all the Social-Revolutionaries and most of the Liberals) in the commonsense of the Russian people might justify itself. For, in his own peculiar way, Kerensky must be described as one of the great orators of history. There was nothing attractive about his delivery. His voice was raucous from much shouting. He had few gestures---for a Slav amazingly few. But he had words at his command and he spoke with a conviction that was all-compelling. How well I remember his first visit to Moscow. It was, I think, soon after he had been made Minister for War. He had just returned from a visit to the front. He spoke in the Big Theatre---the platform on which, later, the Bolsheviks ratified the Peace of Brest-Litovsk. Kerensky, however, was the first politician to speak from that famous stage which has given to the world Chaliapin, Sobinoff, Geltzer, Mordkin, and scores of other famous dancers and singers. On this occasion the huge amphitheatre was packed from top to bottom. In Moscow the embers of Russian patriotism were still warm, and Kerensky had come to stir them into flame again. Generals, high officials, bankers, great industrialists, merchants, accompanied by their wives, occupied the parterre and first balcony boxes. On the stage were the representatives of the Soldiers' Councils. A small pulpit had been erected in the foreground of the stage just above the prompter's trap-door. There was the usual ten minutes' delay, the customary rumours among the audience. Alexander Feodorovitch was ill. A new crisis had recalled him to St. Petersburg. Then the buzz of conversation gave place to a burst of clapping, and from the wings the pale figure of the War Minister made its way to the central dais. The audience rose to him. Kerensky held up his hand and plunged straight into his speech. He looked ill and tired. He drew himself up to his full height, as if calling up his last reserves of energy. Then, with an ever-increasing flow of words, he began to expound his gospel of suffering. Nothing that was worth having could be achieved without suffering. Man himself was born into this world in suffering. The greatest of all revolutions in history had begun on the Cross of Calvary.
Was it to be supposed that their own revolution was to be consolidated without suffering? They had a legacy of appalling difficulties left to them by the Tsarist régime: disorganised transport, lack of bread, lack of fuel. Yet the Russian people knew how to suffer. He had just returned from the trenches. He had seen men who had been living for months on end with mud and water up to their knees. Lice crawled over them. For days they had had nothing but a crust of black bread for sustenance. They were without the proper equipment for their self-defence They had not seen their women-folk for months. Yet they made no complaint. They had promised to do their duty to the end. It was only in St. Petersburg and in Moscow that he heard grumbling. And from whom? From the rich, from those who, in their silks and ornaments of gold, came here today to listen to him in comfort. He raised his eyes to the balcony boxes, while with fierce staccato sentences he lashed himself into a passion. Were they to bring Russia down in ruins, to be guilty of the most shameful betrayal in history, while the poor and the humble, who had every reason to complain, were still holding out? He was ashamed at the apathy of the big cities. What had they done to be tired? Could they not watch a little longer? He had come to Moscow for a message for the men in the trenches. Was he to go back and say that their effort was in vain because "the heart of Russia" was now peopled by men of little faith?
As he finished his peroration, he sank back exhausted into the arms of his aide-de-camp. In the limelight his face had the pallor of death. Soldiers assisted him off the stage, while in a frenzy of hysteria the whole audience rose and cheered itself hoarse. The man with one kidney---the man who had only six weeks to live---would save Russia yet. A millionaire's wife threw her pearl necklace on to the stage. Every woman present followed her example, and a hail of jewellery descended from every tier of the huge house. In the box next to me, General Wogak, a man who had served the Tsar all his life and who hated the revolution as the pest, wept like a child. It was an epic performance---more impressive in its emotional reactions than any speech of Hitler or of any orator I have ever heard. The speech had lasted for two hours. Its effect on Moscow and on the rest of Russia lasted exactly two days.
Today the reactionaries and imperialists who once fawned on him have no good word to say of Kerensky. More even than the Bolsheviks, he is made the scapegoat of their short-comings.
In 1923 two young scions of the Russian nobility came to see me in Prague. They were in high spirits. They informed me that they had spent the afternoon reviling Kerensky. They had discovered that he was living in the Hotel Paris in Prague. They had hired the room next to his and had spent the afternoon shouting "dirty dog" and other abuse through the thin partitions. That is typical of the attitude of most Russians towards the man whose chief sin was that he had disappointed impossible hopes.
Kerensky was the symbol of a necessary interlude between the Tsarist war and the Bolshevik peace. His failure was inevitable. In the eyes of the Russia which supported him, it would have been a greater failure if he had died at his post.
In June, 1931, he was lunching with me in the Carlton Grill Room in London, when Lord Beaverbrook came over and joined our table. With his keen interest in human psychology he began at once to ply Kerensky with questions.
"What was the reason of your collapse?"
Kerensky's reply was that the Germans forced on the Bolshevik rising because Austria, Bulgaria and Turkey were on the verge of making a separate peace with Russia. The Austrians had decided to ask for a separate peace less than a fortnight before the October revolution.
"Would you have mastered the Bolsheviks if you had made a separate peace?" asked Lord Beaverbrook.
"Of course," said Kerensky, "we should he in Moscow now."
"Then why," said Lord Beaverbrook, "didn't you do it?"
"We were too naive," was the reply.
Naïveté is Kerensky's proper epitaph.
Today, he is fifty. He looks marvellously well. Since the removal of his tubercular kidney he has never had a day's illness. He lives in Paris and still dreams of the day when Russia will come back to him. He is still an idealist. He lacks, as he has always lacked, the ruthlessness of the successful revolutionary. He has two sons. Both are engineers and both are working in England.
By a strange coincidence Kerensky, Lenin, and Protopopoff (the craziest of all the Tsarist ministers), all came from the same Volga town of Simbirsk. Kerensky comes of a family of orthodox priests. His father was a State official and was Lenin's trustee. In spite of this connection Kerensky never met Lenin and only saw him once or twice from a distance.
Other new revolutionary acquaintances with whom I came into contact during this period were Boris Savinkoff, Filonenko, Chernoff, Zenzinoff, Rudnieff, the new Moscow Mayor, Urnoff, the President of the Soldiers' Soviet, Minor, the venerable Social-Revolutionary editor, Prokopovitch and his wife, Ekaterina Kuskova, a remarkable couple who both in their personal appearance and in their work may be aptly described as the Russian counterpart of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb. Some day, when the story of the Russian revolution fades into the same background of time as the French revolution, their names will figure in the Russian history books. To the foreign reader they are, with the exception of Savinkoff, of no significance.
For some reason, which I have never been able to understand, Boris Savinkoff has always been regarded by Englishmen as a man of action and therefore as a hero. More even than most Russians, Savinkoff was a schemer---a man who could sit up all night drinking brandy and discussing what he was going to do the next day. And, when the morrow came, he left the action to others. His talents cannot he denied. He wrote several excellent novels. He understood the revolutionary temperament better almost than any one, and knew how to play on it for his own ends. He had mingled so much with spies and agents-provocateurs that, like the hero in his own novel, he hardly knew whether he was deceiving himself or those whom he meant to deceive. Like most Russians, too, he was a forcible speaker who could impress his personality on his listeners. At one time he entirely captivated Mr. Churchill, who saw in him a Russian Bonaparte. There were, however, fatal defects in his character. He liked luxury, and, although he was ambitious, was not prepared to sacrifice his self-indulgence to his ambition. His chief weakness was my own---a fatal capacity for short spells of frenzied work followed by long periods of indolence. Him, too, I saw frequently after the collapse of the Kerensky régime. He came to see me in Moscow in 1918 at a moment when a price was on his head. The danger to himself---and, incidentally, to me---was considerable. His only disguise was a pair of huge horn-rimmed spectacles with darkened glasses. His conversation was mostly recriminations against the Allies and against the Russian counter-revolutionaries, with whom he was supposed to be co-operating. The last time I saw him was in a night-haunt in Prague in 1923. He was a pathetic figure for whom one could not help feeling the deepest sympathy. He had exhausted all his friends, and, when later he returned to Moscow and offered his services to the Bolsheviks, I was not surprised. Doubtless behind that tortured brain, there was some grandiose scheme of striking a last blow for Russia and of carrying out a spectacular coup d'état. It was a gambler's throw (all his life he had played a lone hand), and, although anti-Bolsheviks maintain that he was murdered---poisoned and thrown out of a window---I have little doubt that he went to his own end.
The period of the Kerensky régime was the most unhappy in my official career. I had lost hope and with it my own balance. I sought relaxations from the stress of over-work in material pleasures. I was restless and uncontrolled. The war, which has branded so many of my generation, had destroyed all the former zest of my life. I longed for the peace of the country and the calm of the cooling fields, and, unable to obtain them, I abandoned myself to the temptations of the town. I was definitely on the down-grade.
As the dangers of the Russian revolution came home to the British ministers at home, strenuous efforts were made to bring the Russians to their senses and to recall them sternly to the obligations of their alliance. Some genius hit on the idea of sending out a Franco-British Socialist delegation to persuade the Russian comrades to continue fighting. And in the middle of April, MM. Mouet, Cachin and Lafont, representing French Socialism, and Messrs. Jim O'Grady, Will Thorne, and W. W. Sanders, as stalwarts of British Labour, arrived in St. Petersburg to preach wisdom and patriotism to the Soviets. The three Frenchmen were intellectuals. Moutet was a lawyer. Cachin and Lafont were professors of philosophy. On the British side Sanders was then secretary of the Fabian Society. To the British public O'Grady and Thorne require no introduction.
From the first the visit was a farce. The delegates fulfilled their task honourably. But, as any one might have foreseen, they were completely lost in the wilderness of Russian revolutionary phraseology. They were bewildered by the endless discussions on peace terms. They understood the jargon of the Russian Socialists far less than I did. They were handicapped by their ignorance of the language. Worst of all, they never succeeded in winning the confidence even of the moderate Socialists, who from the first regarded them as lackeys of their respective governments.
If the effect on the Russians was less than nothing, the reaction of the delegates themselves to the revolution was amusing. O'Grady and Thorne---especially Thorne---were splendid. Never shall I forget that luncheon at the Embassy, when this honest giant regaled us with stories of his adventures. He had all the Englishman's contempt for verbiage, and the babel of foreign tongues had disgusted him. He longed to use his strong arms and to knock the heads of the garrulous comrades together.
The Allied delegates came to Moscow. They visited the front. They delivered---through the aid of their interpreter---innumerable patriotic speeches, and in the end they went away, sadder and wiser men. The sequel to this visit is amusing. O'Grady has become Sir James O'Grady and a Colonial Governor. Will Thorne is today the Labour doyen of the House of Commons and remains what he has always been---a Trades Union leader. Mr. Sanders was a member of the 1929 Labour Administration. He, too, is the mildest of pinks. Of the Frenchmen Lafont has passed through and out of Communism. Moutet is still a moderate Socialist. And Cachin---the most perfervid patriot of the six, the man who, with tears of emotion in his eyes, implored the Soviets not to go out of the war until the triumph of the Allies was complete---has given himself body and soul to Moscow and today holds the fort of Bolshevism in France.
Events now began to move rapidly. A few days after the arrival of the Franco-British Labour delegation, and almost simultaneously with the return to Russia of Lenin, came M. Albert Thomas, the French Socialist Minister of Munitions. He, too, had been sent out by a French Government, claiming by its traditions to possess a special knowledge of revolutions and anxious to secure the co-operation of revolutionary Russia with the Allied cause. Thomas, whose Socialism was a shade less pink than the Conservatism of Mr. Baldwin, was accompanied by a host of secretaries and officers. Moreover, he carried in his pocket the recall of M. Paléologue, the French Ambassador and a cynic who never struck me as really serious, but who understood Russia much better than most people suspected. The recall was part of the new policy.
I saw a certain amount of Thomas---a jovial, bearded man with a sense of humour and a healthy, bourgeois appetite. He made friends with Sir George Buchanan. He stimulated the war loyalty of Kerensky. He visited the front and harangued the troops with patriotic speeches well larded with revolutionary sentiment. And he argued with the Soviet. One service, which seemed important at the time, he rendered to the Allies. The Soviets, at this moment, were engaged in abstract discussions about peace terms. They had invented the formula of "peace without annexations and contributions" and this phrase, adopted at thousands of meetings in the trenches and in the villages, had spread like wildfire throughout the country. It was a formula which caused considerable annoyance and even anxiety to the English and French Governments, which had already divided up the spoils of a victory not yet won, in the form of both annexations and contributions. And both the French Ambassador and Sir George Buchanan had been requested to circumvent this new and highly dangerous form of pacifism. Their task was delicate and difficult. There seemed no way out of the impasse, and in despair they sought the advice of Thomas. The genial Socialist laughed.
"I know my Socialists," he said. "They will shed their blood for a formula. You must accept it and alter its interpretation."
So annexations became restitution and contributions reparations. It was, I imagine, the first time the word reparations was used officially, and Thomas certainly succeeded in persuading the Soviets to accept a clause in their formula for the restitution of Alsace-Lorraine. At the time it seemed an important achievement. Actually, as the Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries, who had yielded to the Thomas subtlety, were so soon to be swept away, it made no difference whatsoever.
M. Thomas was the most entertaining of the French and English Socialists who visited Russia during this period of the first revolution. He spoke well. He was adaptable. And he had courage. But the results were insignificant. His speeches were no more effective than those of our military attachés, Colonel Knox and Colonel Thornhill, who with more sincerity besought the Russian soldier not to abandon his allies, who were fighting his battle on the other side of Europe. To the Bolsheviks he was of course a renegade, a Socialist traitor, who had sold himself to the bourgeoisie, and as such he was denounced in all the highways and byways of the revolution.
The position of the Allied Missions in Russia was, in fact, rapidly becoming impossible. Every one was engaged in trying to persuade the Russian to continue fighting when he had just overthrown a régime because it refused to give him peace. A little plain thinking should have made any one see that in these circumstances the success of the Bolsheviks was merely a question of time.
Hot on the heels of M. Thomas came Mr. Arthur Henderson, despatched on a similar mission of fraternal goodwill by Mr. Lloyd George. Mr. Henderson, too, carried a letter of recall in his pocket. To be strictly accurate, the letter of recall was not actually included in the Henderson baggage-train. What had happened was this: When the British Labour Minister---and Mr. Henderson was the first Labour representative in the history of England to achieve Cabinet rank---was actually on his way to St. Petersburg, the Foreign Office sent a telegram to Sir George Buchanan extolling his work and suggesting that he should take a rest. In other words, he was to be recalled and his post given to Mr. Henderson.
On deciphering the telegram and without consulting the Ambassador, "Benji" Bruce, head of the Chancery, rushed off to see Sazonoff, ascertained from him that Tereschenko, the Foreign Minister of the Provisional Government, would be very sorry to see Sir George Buchanan replaced, and then went back to the Embassy and sent off a long private telegram in cipher to George Clerk at the Foreign Office, saying that Henderson's appointment would be a disaster.
As it turned out, this bold initiative on the part of the subordinate proved to be unnecessary. Mr. Henderson has been described by one of his Labour colleagues as the greatest Foreign Secretary England has ever had. True it is that Dr. Dalton, the colleague who made this remarkable statement, was Mr. Henderson's trusted lieutenant and assistant during his conduct of the foreign affairs of Great Britain and that, in praising his chief, he is casting reflected glory on himself. Nevertheless, on the occasion of his Russian visit, Mr. Henderson certainly showed an admirable discretion. Accompanied by George Young, he took up his quarters at the Europe---the same hotel which had provided such luxurious shelter for Lord Milner, George Clerk, Sir Henry Wilson, and numerous other distinguished visitors to Russia. There, at the Ambassador's request, I came to see him.
I dined with him in his private room. Throughout one long summer evening I walked with him down the Nevsky, across the Winter Square, past the Palace Quay. Beneath the gold reflection of the Admiralty Arch I heard the whole legend of the Hendersonian career. I accompanied him to Moscow. I took him to a full-dress meeting of the Moscow Soviet. And in the inner chamber of his Moscow hotel I arranged for him a private conversation (with myself as interpreter) with Urnoff, the then all-powerful President of the Soldiers' Soviet.
Mr. Henderson has the reputation---doubtless well deserved ---of being a first-class organiser. He is a great man at Party meetings, which he succeeds in dominating by concealing his own intentions to the last moment. He is a man who is slow to commit himself. He does not give himself away.
On this occasion, however, I looked into Mr. Henderson's soul. His geography was a little weak. He was not quite sure where he was, but he was speedily convinced that the locality was unhealthy. The comrades in the Soviets bewildered him. He did not understand their language. He did not like their manners. Doubtless he would have liked to be the first Labour Ambassador. But after all, a Cabinet Minister is a more powerful person than the greatest of modern Ambassadors. Moreover, Sir George Buchanan was not the failure he had been painted. Sir George, as Mr. Henderson soon discovered, understood the wild men much better than did Mr. Henderson himself. Further, Sir George had been kind, and Mr. Henderson is susceptible to kindness and to flattery. The great sacrifice was therefore easily made. Mr. Henderson explained that, while the Embassy was his for the asking, he had come to the conclusion that no good purpose would be served by the removal of a man who understood Russia far better than he did and who had shown himself remarkably free from all party bias. Sir George was not even opposed to the Stockholm Conference, and Mr. Henderson, whose undoubted patriotism was tempered by the common-sense of internationalism, saw a glimmer of hope in the Stockholm meeting. So, shaking the dust of St. Petersburg off his feet, he returned to London to make the great renunciation and to recommend that Sir George Buchanan be retained as His Britannic Majesty's Ambassador and Envoy Extraordinary to the Revolutionary Government of Russia. On his return he had his historic wait on Mr. Lloyd George's doormat---a wait which ended with his resignation. In this manner he lost both his Embassy and his place in the Cabinet. It was a bitter reward for a mission which had been honestly if somewhat timorously fulfilled, and which, whatever its effect on the Russians, had the advantage of curing Mr. Henderson of any revolutionary tendencies for the rest of his life. As for the Stockholm Conference, the advocacy of which had caused Mr. Henderson's downfall, the proposal had the support of several British diplomatists, including Sir Esmé Howard, and, in turning it down, Mr. Lloyd George, who had blown hot and then cold on the idea, probably made a great mistake. At Stockholm we should have had everything to gain and almost nothing to risk.
During that disastrous summer of 1917 I had one novel experience which I must chronicle if only for the serio-comic light it throws on the Russian character. As part of our propaganda baggage-train we had a travelling film mission, of which the able chief was Colonel Bromhead, the subsequent chairman of the British Gaumont. He, too, was enlisted to coax the Russians into fighting by showing them war films of the fighting on the Western front. The effect of these war pictures on the mind of the now undisciplined Russian army can be imagined. Not unnaturally, they served merely to increase the number of deserters.
It was not Bromhead's fault. He was a splendid fellow, who realised the futility of showing war pictures to men whose sole thought was peace. Still, he had his duty to do. Films were part of the Whitehall scheme for the regeneration of Russia, and shown they had to be.
To Moscow, then, came Bromhead for a monster demonstration of the British effort. Would I help to make his show a success? Could I enlist the services of patriotic speakers? Nothing seemed easier. Moscow alas! had more orators than fighters.
We secured a theatre. We arranged a programme. And then the Soldiers' Soviet, infinitely more powerful than the Provisional Government, intervened. The show was for the Moscow troops. The soldiers might see the films. They were not to be exposed to the harangues of Imperialist jingoes. There must be no speeches.
In vain I went to see the Presidium of the Soldiers' Soviet. In vain I argued the merits of free speech. The utmost concession I could wring from them was that Lockhart himself---Lockhart who sympathised with the revolution and knew the views of revolutionary Russia regarding the peace terms-might speak. But there were to he no other orators. On these conditions the Presidium would guarantee the success of the show. They would be present in full force to see that the conditions were carried out.
Bromhead accepted the situation with unfeigned delight. My own consent was given with reluctance. An after-dinner speech before an audience rendered innocuous by good food and champagne was one thing. I saw nothing attractive in addressing twelve hundred sceptical and severely critical revolutionaries in their own language.
I took pains over that speech. I wrote it out very carefully in English and had it translated into mellifluous Russian by a Russian poet. I learnt it off by heart. Indeed, I made myself something more than word perfect. I rehearsed my effects even down to the place where my voice was to break. Not in vain had I gone the rounds with Kerensky.
My appeal was frankly sentimental. There is no other reason I know that will compel large bodies of men to fight. But my sentiment was Russian. I made no reference to the crime of deserting their Western Allies. I discussed quite frankly Russia's desire and even need of a separate peace, and then I drew a picture of a better world created by the glorious revolution. But neither the better world nor the revolution itself could stand, if discipline was to be thrown to the winds and the road to Moscow opened to the enemy. Lenin would have demolished the argument with one sentence. But Lenin, fortunately, was still in hiding in St. Petersburg.
On the day of the ordeal I made my way to the theatre, secretly hoping that I might have no audience to address. But the Soldiers' Council had kept its word. The house was packed. Moreover, seated beside the Presidium in the balcony were the Assistant Minister of Marine and Kislikin, the High Commissar for Moscow. Our films were of two kinds; naval and military. Very wisely we showed the naval films last. They were impressive and free from all horrors. My speech came at the end. There was no applause when I stood up on the narrow stage before the curtain, and I began nervously. The silence, however, was respectful. I was to be given a hearing. I forgot all the tricks I had practised. I almost forgot my words. I spoke with a quivering anguish in my voice which the Russians mistook for genuine emotion. For twenty minutes I strove to master my nervousness, my voice now raucous, now breaking queerly at the oddest moments. To the end I was listened to in deathly silence. When I had finished my peroration, my knees shook and the sweat streamed like tears down my face.
Then pandemonium broke loose. A soldier jumped on to the stage and kissed me on both cheeks. In the box of the Presidium Kishkin stood up, and in stentorian tones declared that Russia would never desert her Allies. That afternoon he had received official news that the Russian Fleet had sailed out into the Baltic in full fighting trim. More cheers. More pandemonium. In every corner of the house soldiers were standing up and clamouring to be heard. The scene was almost like the opening of the war. I had unloosed the strings of Russian hysteria. It was a short-lived triumph. The next day the account of the meeting was severely censored. The Socialists had repented of their emotion.
This was my last public appearance as Acting Consul-General in Moscow. Just as the old Russia was advancing inevitably to her final tragedy, so, too, there was a minor tragedy in my own life. I relate it frankly and without excuses. Some months before I had formed an attachment to a Russian Jewess---whom I had met casually at the theatre. I had made myself talked about.
The matter came finally to the cars of the Ambassador. He sent for me, and we went for a walk together. No man could have been kinder. No man could have made a more successful appeal to my better nature. He told me the story of his own life. When he was young, he had undergone a similar temptation. Real happiness consisted in resisting temptations which one was bound to regret later. He referred to the good work I was doing. It was a pity to wreck what might be a wonderful career for what was merely a passing infatuation due to war strain. Convention might be the first cousin to hypocrisy, but in government service it had to be observed. Besides, there was the question of duty and of the war. I should put my country before my self-indulgence.
I was deeply moved. We shook hands emotionally---my emotion being due to genuine affection for this splendid old man, who had treated me with so much understanding, and his, I believe, to an equally genuine regret for his lost youth---and I returned to Moscow, having pledged myself to make the grand renunciation. I made it, and it lasted exactly three weeks. Then one day the telephone rang, and I went back.
This was the end. I had broken my word, and this time the Ambassador sorrowfully but firmly decided that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and that I must go home to England for a rest. Perhaps he was right.
There was no scandal. I do not suppose that even the Private Secretary at the Foreign Office was informed of the real reasons for my sudden return. It was said that I had broken down from overwork, and in this manner I received much sympathy. For the same reason I was able to avoid all the publicity of an official farewell. My friends in Moscow were kindness itself. They were told I was ill and not to be worried. They all expected me to be back within six weeks, and in any case the approaching collapse of Russia was now so apparent that every one was fully occupied with the salvage of his own affairs. To such of the public as thought about me I was a martyr to duty. But, knowing that my enforced sick leave was really a recall and that I should never come back, I felt my position keenly, and it was as a culprit rather than as a martyr that I slunk out of Moscow in those early days of September, 1917. I left St. Petersburg just as the Kerensky-Korniloff duel was starting. I arrived in London six weeks before the Bolshevik revolution.
Book Four: "History from the Inside"
Table of Contents