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Non-fiction

Project 1917 is a series of events that took place a hundred years ago as described by those involved. It is composed only of diaries, letters, memoirs, newspapers and other documents

All these freedoms are all very well, but meanwhile we, for some reason, are obliged to suffer more than any other citizens. It seems we are heading, rapidly and irrevocably, towards a republican regime. I fear that we are not ready for this, and Russia will fall apart. Already, Ukraine wishes to become an independent republic. And above all, the Yids will now gain a great deal of power, as we’ve already seen in Kiev, but if they continue in this way, a pogrom is inevitable, and they are terribly afraid of this.

I have been allowed out of exile and we are returning to Petersburg. Just before my departure, there was a service in Rakitnoe. Peasants came flooding into the church. They were all weeping. “How will we live now?” they kept saying. “They’ve taken away our little Father Tsar!” In Kharkov we got off the train to take some refreshment at the station buffet. It was difficult to force our way through the crush. People were calling one another “comrade”. Somebody recognised me and called out to me by name. There was excitement in the crowd. We were surrounded; there was pushing from all sides and it was hard to breathe. People came to welcome us. Soldiers came to our rescue and escorted us to the buffet. The crowd followed. We had to close the doors to the cafe. People demanded that I give a speech, but I refused, explaining I was not good at public speaking.

I arrived in Petersburg, got off the train and set off through the station. Here, in Petersburg, it seemed things were even more terrible than in Moscow; it seemed there were even more people without the slightest idea what to do loitering around all the station buildings with no purpose whatsoever. I came out of the station and tried to hail a cab driver. The driver, too, seemed to have no idea what to do – whether to take me or not, or how to name his price.

“To the European Hotel” I told him.

“Twenty silver roubles.”

That, in those days, was still a ridiculous price. But I agreed; I got into the cab and we set off. I didn’t recognise Petersburg. In Moscow, life had ground to a halt, although the new leaders were engaged in an insanely stupid, feverish imitation of something like a new regime, a new order and even a parade of life. It was the same in Petersburg, but to an even more excessive degree. There were endless conferences, meetings and demonstrations; proclamations and decrees were being issued one after the other. Nevsky Prospekt was submerged in a grey crowd:  soldiers with their greatcoats thrown over their shoulders, workers not at work, idle servants and all sorts of riffraff hawking cigarettes, red armbands, filthy postcards, sweets and whatever you cared to buy. And the pavements were littered with rubbish. There were sunflower seeds everywhere and frozen horse manure on the roads, forming mounds and pits. Half way to the hotel, the driver suddenly said something to me, something I had already heard from several bearded peasants at the time.

“Now the people are like cattle without a herdsman. They’ll make a mess of everything and it’ll be the end of them.”

I asked him:

“So what should we do?”

“Do?” he said. “We can’t do anything now. That’s it. Now we don’t have a government.”

When it seemed all hopes that the Provisional Government would help ensure passage through England were in vain, the expatriates in Switzerland decided to enter into negotiations with the German government. It was our Swiss comrade Platten who led the negotiations. The conditions, worked out by the entire expatriate colony, were accepted by the German government.

The conditions were as follows.

1) All expatriates are to travel regardless of their views on the war.

2)The railway carriage in which the expatriates are to travel will enjoy extra-territorial rights. Nobody has the right to enter the carriage without the permission of comrade Platten. There shall be no inspection of passports or luggage.

3) Those who travel to Russia are obliged, once there, to campaign for the exchange of a corresponding number of Austro-Hungarian internees.

There are rumours in the press that I am one of the organisers of the radical democratic party. I should like to declare that I remain what I was before, a social democrat.

A long telegram from General Alekseev was read to us. It was full of hopeless pessimism and detailed the beginnings of disorganisation of the government apparatus and the disintegration of the army. Countervailing measures to prevent the disintegration of the army included… the dispatching of pro-government minded delegates from the Duma and the Council of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies to the frontlines for the purposes of persuasion… The telegram made a similar impression on us all: the ability to control the army slipped through the fingers of the General Headquarters.

The bolsheviks, personally, became exceedingly courteous and I restored my personal relationships with Zinoviev and Lenin. On the referat Lenin also managed to avoid any vehement “expressions”, however, the chasm between us remains deep, and the drivel he spouts regarding our goals is outrageous.

Fortunately for me, one of my old friends, Vladimir Pimenovitch Krymov, editor and publisher of the famous review, Stolitsa and
Oussadba, came soon afterwards to see me. A talented writer and journalist, Krymov was also a sincere man, with firm, unshakable opinions both before and after the Revolution. He was an intimate of our house, where he had met Andre, who thought highly of his clear intelligence and moderation. When I told him how I stood, he at once dictated a letter to Kerensky for me, which we immediately took to the Ministry ofJustice.

The most dangerous germ involved in the revolution has been developing during the last few days with the most alarming rapidity.

Finland. Livonia, Esthonia, Poland, Lithuania, the Ukraine, Georgia and Siberia, are demanding their independence, or, failing that, complete autonomy.

That Russia is doomed to federalism is highly probable.

She is predestined to that development by the enormous size of her territories, the diversity of her races and the increasing complexity of her interests. But the present movement is separatist much more than particularist; secessionist rather than federalist; it tends to nothing less than national disintegration. So the Soviet gives it its full blessing. As if the visionaries and lunatics of the Tauride Palace would not be tempted to destroy in a few weeks the historic work of ten centuries 1

The French Revolution began by proclaiming the Republic one and indivisible. Tothat principle it sacrificed thousands of heads, and French unity was saved. The Russian revolution has taken for its motto Russia dissolved and dismembered.

Today:

-5
in Petrograd
0
in Moscow