New post

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

I hope to start on my way home to-morrow.

I dined last night with Tereshchenko to meet Kerenski, Savinkov, Kornilov and my French colleague, Lavergne.

Kerenski looked tired and nervous. I said something to him about overwork and he sighed and spoke of the “ continual disputes ” (postoyannie conjlikti). As he left the house to get into his car and drive off to try to settle some new “ dispute,” I noticed that half a dozen lazy soldiers lounging on the parapet opposite did not trouble to stand up or salute.

I drove at midnight to have a talk with Kornilov, but did not learn much. He talks of wide schemes for mili­tarising the railways and industry, but does not seem to see that meanwhile nothing is being done.

I saw poor little Diamandi. He wants, in order to save the last bit of Rumanian soil, that the Russians should be induced to send their best troops to Rumania, and that the Allies in the west should press their offensive energetically. He says that the Rumanians hate the Russians, who, in Milyukov’s words, have betrayed them twice, first by dragging them into the war and then, after getting them in, by refusing to fight. In saying good-bye I said I hoped to see him on my return. He said: ‘‘I only hope I will not then be the representative of a country that has ceased to exist.

The War Cabinet had hitherto given Russia everything she asked, even at a sacrifice to ourselves, and had supported Kerenski as the only man who stood between us and disaster to allied in­terests in the Eastern theatre. Opinion was now hardening, and our Government was not prepared to make further concrete sacrifices. I suggested that we might demand from Kerenski a considered statement of the part the Russian army would be able to play in the spring campaign. The statesman I put the suggestion to replied : “It would not be of the slightest use, for when the spring comes Kerenski will not be Prime Minister.” He further said that there would not be an inter-allied conference to reconsider the terms of peace, for any Minister the Russians might send to attend such a conference would be certain to be “ kicked out ” before he got back to Russia. He waxed bitter when he spoke of the parrot cry of “ Without annexations and without indemnities.” “ When the Russians are running away like blazes, running away like blazes on their own territory—that is my point, running away like blazes on their own territory—they have the damned cheek to ask us to relinquish territory that we have spent hundreds of thousands of lives in conquering ! ”

I believe this statesman voiced the opinion of England. Russian officers told me that carters in the East End of London called out to them : “ When are you Russians going to fight ? ” Even our gardener in Ulster had asked: “ Why do those Russians not fight ?

Workers still have in their possession 100 machine guns and 40 thousand rifles, and no one knows how many guns and pistols do they have.

Unfortunately, Savinkov is handicapped by want of experience. He said, when speaking of the shortcomings of Russian officers : “ Officers often lack tact in their treatment of the men. I have known a regiment that re­fused to go to the trenches but that went immediately its Commanding Officer was changed.” Of course such a regiment was spoilt irretrievably by the Higher Command having given way to the mutinous demands of the men, and it was of no importance whether it was in the trenches or not, for in any case it would not fight.

Of course poor Russian officers often show a deplorable lack of character. P.  yesterday was very guarded in his reference to the slackness of the troops as long as a certain one-year volunteer was in the room. When the latter left he changed his tone so rapidly that I asked who the man had been and learned that he was a member of the Sovyet!

On July 25th and 30th, when the Ambassador hoped to have an interview with Kerenski, I wrote out certain notes on the military situation. As yesterday he hoped at last to see him I gave him a short summary of these notes.

Possibly as a result, the Ambassador brought back a message yesterday that Tereshchenko wished to see me. He, no doubt, knows that I am going on leave and wishes me to give an optimistic v iew of the situation when I reach England !

I went to see him at 11.30 to-day. Our conversation covered most of the ground, but I left the room little im­pressed by his easy optimism. He said that Kornilov would have a free hand. The Sovyet had attacked him as a counter-revolutionary, but when, two days later, he had been appointed Gommander-in-Chief, it had stopped its opposition and had not restarted.

He agreed about the officers and discipline. I said that some excellent officers had been expelled, and he said that this had been done by Guchkov ! Kaledin will return at once as Inspector-General of Cossack Troops or to command one of the fronts. The matter of the police is still “ under consideration.”

I asked if he really thought Russia would fight through the winter. He said : “ We have got to think it.” Savin- kov, whom I saw later, said that discipline would be re­stored by the autumn, and the troops would then be retained in the trenches by fear of punishment.

I suggested to Tereshchenko three reasons that, apart from the demoralisation of the army, might interfere with the war in Russia in the winter: an economic crisis, a breakdown of the railways, and the holding back of grain by the peasants.

He thought that the economic situation would right itself, and that the workmen, after starving for a little and perhaps burning a factory or two, would consent to accept wages that their employers could afford to pay. In this opinion he is much more optimistic than the majority, who think there will be much burning and murder before the workmen learn sense.

He said that the Government would militarise the railways as soon as they got a decent excuse. The holding back of their grain by the peasants was the most difficult matter of all, and he did not indicate how the Government, with no goods to barter, is going to induce the peasants to part.

General Manikovski, who was in charge of the supply departments, said that he had not been able to see his Minister for two months. He said : “Sometimes I want to put a bullet into my own head, and sometimes into somebody else’s.” His subordinate, the Chief of the Military Technical Department, said that there was no real work being done in his office. See more

Kerensky was still the only individual who had any hold on the mob, and the nation was evidently doomed if it failed soon to produce a bigger man. He had the theatrical qualities of a Napoleon, but none of his moral courage or useful ruthlessness. 

The "Save the Revolution” Government which was formed on August 6th included M. Savinkov in the subordinate position of acting Minister of War, the portfolio being retained by Kerenski. No one believed very much in the Government, but some of its members believed in Kerenski.

I had heard a lot about the “wonderful Russian spirit” since the Revolution, but that I thought less of it since I had seen crowds of able-bodied men lounging, chewing sunflower seeds every day, and watching women train to fight while they shirked their duty. I had never seen or heard of any tribe in India or elsewhere which allowed its women to do its fighting. 

Two days later an all-Russian Conference of Bolsheviks and Internationalists opened at Petrograd. Yet Russia was still nominally at war ! Elections at certain factories at Petrograd showed a great increase in Bolshevism.

The capital was outwardly quiet, but there were no signs whatsoever of the garrison being taken in hand. A garrison order complained—without effect—“ Sentries have lost all military appearance; they sit, smoke and quit their posts of their own free will.

After the rising of July 16th and 17th, General Polovtsev, the Gommander-in-Chief of the district, received a cipher tele­gram from Kerenski, who was at the front, telling him that he would return on a certain day and that he wanted the streets lined with loyal troops from the station to the Winter Palace. The little Socialist Minister wished, no doubt, to thank the men as he drove past in triumph. The order was issued, and, of course, instantly became known in the Sovyet, where it occasioned no small commotion. The Minister of Labour, Skobelev, hurried to the District Staff to implore Polovtsev to cancel instructions which he thought had been issued solely to curry favour with the Minister of War. When he saw the telegram, he drove at once to the Council of Ministers and whispered the news to Tseretelli, who was beside himself, as he had for long foreseen a Napoleon arising from every bush to destroy the “ beautiful fabric of the Revolution.” At length Prince Lvov was appealed to, and proved, as ever, accommodating. He wrote across the order : “ These instructions are not to be carried out,” and the situation was saved.

The power of the Executive Committee of the Sovyet had been weakened by the revelations of the Intelligence Department, for though the majority of the members was opposed in theory to the Bolsheviks, the Sovyet drew its influence from the effect of the propaganda of the Extremists on the nerves of the Government. In the eyes of educated and patriotic people, it had made a bad blunder in trying to cover the exposure of the connection of the Bolsheviks with German propaganda, by appointing a committee of five full-blooded Jews to enquire into the charges—Messrs. Lieber, Dan, Gotz, Krokmal and Goldman.

On the other hand, the people were all sick of the war They did not want to fight, and in their ignorance and moral deadness were ready to welcome any shibboleth, however shameful or hollow, that would provide an excuse for peace.

It was difficult to hope that it was not already too late to save the army, but there was the one chance that Kerenski might lend his own popularity to support Kornilov, leaving the latter a free hand as to methods, and that Kornilov might prove the giant that the situation demandedю

The Executive Committee of the Soviet passed a resolution of confidence in “Comrade Kerenski”, author­ising him to form a cabinet of members of all parties. The voting was 146 to 47, with 42 abstentions. 

On August 1st General Kornilov issued an order, pointing out that the Russian army from the very beginning of its existence had never known such disgrace as had been earned by the treachery of “ certain units ” of the 11th and 7th Armies. “ In the gloomy nightmare of those days it was only the valour of those infantry units that remained true to their duty, of all the storm and cyclist battalions, of all the artillery, Cossack and cavalry units, that opposed the advance of the enemy.” The order ended with a recognition of the heroism of the officers: “ Officers and you few soldiers of infantry who have remained faithful and have not disgraced yourselves by shameful flight and treachery, I turn to you. Your feats are immortal, your heroism is worthy of history, of the veneration of future generations. . .Abandoned by treacherous soldier comrades misled by mad propaganda, you alone remained at the front, and opposing the enemy masses with your personal bravery, you fell in an unequal fight, one against hundreds.”

But the coward rabble was without shame. Two days earlier, on July 30th, a meeting at Kronstadt, addressed by dele­gates from the 5th and nth Armies, had passed a resolution, demanding amongst other “ reforms ” the abolition of the death penalty and of the military censorship, the disbandment of all storm units, the confiscation of the printing-press of the bourgeois papers and the admission of delegates to Tsarskoe Selo to satisfy themselves that the ex-Emperor was guarded sufficiently strictly.