Poor Neverdovsky came to see me at the Embassy yesterday. He and his wife escaped from Vyborg disguised and by the skin of their teeth. The massacre of officers lasted two days, and was organized by sailors who came from Helsingfors, and called the local garrison “Black Hundred Reactionaries,” because they had not shed any officer blood. See more
At 2 p.m. on the first day, a few of his men came to Neverdovsky and asked him to explain Kornilov’s movement. When N. complied, one man said: “All the officers say that they are for the Government, but they are all secretly for Kornilov. They should all be wiped out.” Another man said: “ Come along and don’t talk,” and they all went out.
Two hours later he saw some forty soldiers running with rifles, and soon afterwards, he heard that General Oranovski, the Commander of the Troops in Finland, General Vasiliev, the General Quartermaster, and General Stepanov, the Commandant of the Fortress, had been arrested. Later a lady came in to say that they had all been murdered. They were thrown over the bridge and shot in the water.
Neverdovski spent the night in a house with friends. He was about to go to his office in the morning but was implored by his officers to wait while a junior officer spied out the land. This boy soon returned with the news that it had been decided to murder all officers of field rank. N. managed to find a hired carriage, which took him for an exorbitant fare to the house of a colonel he knew some twenty miles off. There he hid six days before venturing to escape to Petrograd. The Finnish peasants helped him and gave him a rifle, saying: “ The Russian soldiers are bad men. We will defend you.”
Savinkov suspects German work in the KornilovCommander in Chief of the Petrograd command - from 18 March 1917 business. His point is that there were three possible outcomes of the “ adventure ” :
The first and the second solutions would have been in Russia's interests. Only the third was in Germany’s interests, and the third was the actual outcome.
Allied military representatives met at the Minister of War’s house at 9.30 a.m. to hear a summary of the steps proposed to raise the morale of the army.
It is proposed to reduce its strength by the elimination of the older classes from the 10,000,000 it is now supposed to contain to 7,500,000, of which 4,000,000 will be combatants, 500,000 depot troops and 3,000,000 auxiliary services. See more
Storm battalions are to be encouraged. Mounted and dismounted “ militia ” units are to be raised from wounded officers and soldiers to maintain order in the interior. After the elections for the Constituent Assembly which are to take place on November 15th, all political agitation is to be stopped in the army. Committees and Commissaries are to be retained.
Many of the proposals are excellent and others are fantastic. The suggestion to abolish the death penalty drew strong protests from General Niessel, who is quite an orator, and from me. We told the Minister that we considered it quite impossible for commanders deprived of the power of inflicting this penalty to stop a panic.
Verkhovski, finally, very pale and nervous, agreed that no army would fight without it, but he added that if it was found impossible to retain it, we were to understand that it was not his fault.
I saw Tereshchenko at 5.30 for half an hour. There are now 43,000 officers unemployed out of a total of 210,000. One corps in four will be withdrawn from the front line to train. The first corps to be withdrawn under this scheme is the Ilnd Guard. Result—it got hold of vodka in Podolya and is completely out of hand.
Tereshchenko fears that the German operations in the Gulf of Riga are preliminary to an attempt against Petrograd. He bases his idea on the size of the German fleet employed —sixteen dreadnoughts out of twenty-seven. He foresees a landing at Hapsal, the destruction of the Russian Baltic fleet, the sweeping up of the mine-fields with a simultaneous advance along the coast to the capital—an affair by land and sea of one and a half months, or if by sea only of three weeks. He is convinced that Germany has decided to have peace by Christmas, and is now determined to attain a strong strategical position, at whatever risk, before opening up negotiations. Germany had said all along that she would only risk her fleet at the end.
On the other hand, Germany has transferred seven divisions to the Western theatre in the last fortnight, viz., one from Galicia, one from Lake Naroch and no less than five from the Riga front. This proves to me that though she may contemplate a raid, she can hardly intend a considered land-and-sea operation against Petrograd, even taking into consideration the present state of the Russian army.
Tereshchenko acknowledged that a “ big offensive ” was not to be expected from the Russian army next spring. All he hoped for was that it would retain the “ 130 ” divisions now opposite it and “ perhaps draw off more.” (The number of divisions now opposite the Russian army is 121, viz., 85 German and 36 Austrian.)
Ragosin, Polovtsev’s A.D.C., came to lunch. He told me that Polovtsev, having tired of idleness, went to G.H.Q. to ask for employment. KornilovCommander in Chief of the Petrograd command - from 18 March 1917 told him to go to Petrograd, as he would come there soon and would want him. He went to Petrograd. See more
At 1 a.m. on Sunday, September 9th, he was called for by Palchinski, Tugan-Baranovski and Tumanov and taken to Kerenski, who shook him by the hand for five minutes and then asked him to take command of the troops at Petrograd. Polovtsev declined, but they sat talking over tea till 6 a.m. Then Kerenski, said: “ I am more sorry than I can say that I cannot overpersuade you, but tell me—here is a map—where would you place your guns if you were ordered to defend Petrograd? ” Polovtsev said that he did not know the ground. He noticed, however, that the future Supreme Commander-in-Chief was placing all his guns on the tops of hills.
I dined last night with General Judson, the American Military Attache, who has taken a palace of a house and has A.D.C.’s, etc. He had Stevens, the American railroad expert, with De Candolle, our railway man, to talk to him, Verkhovski, the new Minister of War, and Colonel Polkovnikov, the new Commander of the District. I sat on Judson’s left; opposite Verkhovski.
Verkhovski is intelligent but very young. He looks twenty-eight but is really thirty-four. He is young in his ideas and is an enthusiast with an enthusiast’s lack of common sense. I am not sure that he does not talk for effect. See more
Some of his conversation shows the man. At dinner, we talked English at our end of the table. Judson asked Verkhovski if it was not true that he was expelled from the Corps des Pages on account of his radical ideas. Looking straight in front of him, his eyes blinking through his glasses, he replied: “ Not exactly. I sought the truth, and they did not want me to find the truth.” Later on; in the theatre; Count Prjetski told me that the reason for the expulsion was that when a Lancer regiment was billeted in the Corps des Pages during some civil disturbances Verkhovski went to the men and told them not to fire on the people.
I asked Verkhovski what sort of propaganda he thought might do good in the Russian army—if he had a million pounds set apart for that purpose how he would spend it. He said: “In providing the men with books and literature, in cinemas and in tea-huts, to widen their outlook on life and to make them comfortable.” It is quite true that this sort of thing has been too much neglected in Russia throughout the war.
Verkhovski has an idea that the Allies should make an offer of peace to the Germans, but on such conditions that they would refuse. I asked if he thought they would fight for Kurland.
Colonel G (a General Staff Officer from the Northern Front), has just been in to see me. He, of course, wants to go to our army, and if there is a separate peace he will go as a private soldier. See more
He says that the men in the trenches are short of boots and warm clothing, and many of them are without great-coats. They gamble away their boots.
Commanding officers cannot carry out inspections of clothing; as this duty is supposed to be performed by the committees!
He says that if Bolshevism wins all along the line in rear, it is very doubtful if the men will remain in the trenches. It is certain they will all leave a few hours after they hear of the commencement of peace negotiations. He suggests that we should call in the Japanese and the Americans, that we should bribe widely, and employ murderers to get rid of Lenin, etc.—gas-bombs in the Circus when the Bolsheviks meet!
Rogosin told me a story of Kerensky. One day, some weeks ago, the little Tsarevitch was playing at Tsarskoe Selo with a toy gun that the Cossacks had presented him with in the old days and of which he was passionately proud, when an officious soldier took the toy from him “lest he should shoot the sentries.” See more
The boy cried bitterly, and a few days later when Kerensky and Polovtsov, then Commander-in-Chief of the Petrograd Military District, were visiting Tsarskoe and were being entertained to lunch by the Commandant, the latter asked what he should do in the matter. Kerensky allowed Polovtsov to reply first. Polovtsov said: “Give it back. After all, the child has no cartridges!” The great man Kerensky then spoke. He said: “No. That would be dangerous, for the feelings of the soldiers are aroused. It is better not to give the rifle back. The soldiers might not like it.
Kerenski was influenced by Nekrasov, originally a professor at the University of Tomsk, who had been a Cadet at the time of the Revolution, but had since worked much in co-operation with the Sovyet, by Galpern, a pacifist Jewish lawyer, and by a relation, Baranovski, an ambitious but inexperienced soldier. These men preached political caution, either failing to understand or preferring to disregard the danger to the army. They were of the common political type, preferring to gain temporary peace by compromise rather than risk anything by decision.
The whole Russian fabric rested on the shoulders of Kornilov and Kerenski, “ the pillars of Hercules,” as Filonenko, the Commissary at G.H.Q. named them in the private code he invented for use in communication with his cliief, Savinkov. With their divergency in character and aims, only an irresponsible well-wisher to both was required to complete the quarrel. This role was filled by Vladimir Lvov, a Cadet and late Procurator of the Synod in the Provisional Government.
In Dublin, on the 14th, I read of Kornilov’s failure, and wrote urging our diplomatic intervention in favour of Kornilov, who had fought the battle of the Alliance.
It was all too late.
The conflict between Kornilov and Kerenski was inevitable from the first, for the two men were of very different character and stood for diametrically opposed principles. Kornilov was a hard-headed soldier of strong will and great courage, a tried patriot, but no politician. He was simple and honest, without a spark of personal ambition. With him Rttssia and Russia’s national honour stood first. Kerenski, the petty lawyer from Saratov, had spent his life in political agitation. He was subtle, vain and ambitious. Prior to the Revolution he had been a pacifist. With him the Revolution came first and Russia only second.
Both men were of humble origin. Kornilov was the son of a non-commissioned officer of Trans-Baikal Cossacks, and his mother was a Buriat woman. Kerenski’s father was a schoolmaster and his mother is said to have been a Jewess.
Kornilov was a man of wide education, and spoke several of the languages of Europe and Asia. He had fought his way to high command even under the old regime, without interest, by sheer hard work and ability. He was the first leading general the Russian army had found since the Revolution with the courage to risk everything in defending its vital interests from political interference. Kerenski had never been in a position of responsibility till suddenly called to power in the re-shuffle of the Revolution. His assets were his unbounded energy, his eloquence and his juggling political adroitness.
The State Conference at Moscow was called by Kerenski with the object of bringing all parties together, but it only revealed and widened the gulf between the Nationalists, who stood for the restoration of order, and the Internationalists, who wanted peace at any price in order to continue their social and political experiments. Under the influence of his political associates, Kerenski became convinced of the danger of a counter-revolution from the Right.
I asked that a telegram should be sent to Kerenski asking him in the interests of the Alliance to come to terms with Kornilov.
On arrival at noon at 10, Downing Street, I found a press telegram reporting the outbreak of the open quarrel between Kerenski and Kornilov. It was too late. After all, the sending of a note was only a gamble, but in war, it is always better to do something than to let things take their course, and it was very certain that if Russia had been Germany’s ally Germany would never have allowed matters to lapse to their present chaos.