I ride about the country much as usual. No one interferes with me, and though I do not wear a red armlet, I am recognised, I suppose, as an eccentric Englishman, unworried by revolutions.
Last night I got a telegram saying I was to return to England. I am not sorry, as I don’t see any prospects of much use here. I am sorry, however, to leave my friends among the Russians, with whom I have been close on three years now, and seen so much. No one who has lived with them as I have can fail to like them.
The people are like naughty children who have run away from school, but the situation grows more and more serious every day. Soldiers idle, workmen idle, and clamouring for more wages.
If the armies don’t pull themselves together I see nothing but anarchy left.
Left G.H.Q. last night and arrived at Petrograd today. Managed to get rooms at Hotel de l’Ours. The journey up was bad. Riggs, who came up, shared a two-berth sleeper with me, Missi, my faithful Russian servant, leaning against the door all night, as private soldiers were all over the place, allowed to go anywhere now and no class distinctions in the trains. One could not move from one’s berth, and there was no food, but the men behaved quite well to us. See more
My rooms are good, but no heating and one sits in a coonskin coat (which I thank my stars I brought from Canada), and shivers even in that, as this Russian winter is by no means over, and as the American paper said of North Dakota, ‘it ain’t no Garden of Eden in the winter-time’.
No bread or biscuits, and a boiled egg and marmalade alone are about as nasty as a meal as I know; however, I suppose one is devilish lucky to get that.
Streets are more or less quiet, but big hungry crowds at the bakers’ shops.
Went to the Embassy and heard their news, which was far from cheering. Walked back, passing the ‘Winter Palace’, where the sentries leaned against the wall and smoked cigarettes. Some of the soldiers salute me and some don’t, though they look shy and half inclined to, but then I suppose they think it would not look sufficiently revolutionary.
At my table at dinner (?) sat a British merchant who has been here many years. Very depressed – sees no end to the trouble. All his workmen on strike and demanding hopeless wages. Thinks there will be another sample of revolution ere long, and I expect he is right.
Reports say that General Ivanoff has been arrested. Only a few months ago he was one of the heroes of the war.
What makes me sick is that some people who, a very short time ago, were squealing to be presented to the Emperor, are now abusing him. See more
It is right to do all possible to help the existing authorities to tide over these difficult times, and no doubt there was much in the previous regime open to criticism, but when one hears of the Emperor being ‘in with the Germans’, etc., it is a d**d lie, and to one or two of the squealers I have said so.
Petrograd reports the killing of eighty Russian naval officers by mutineers. And this is what telegraphic reports from home describe as a ‘peaceful revolution’!
A long interview with Polivanoff this morning, he being very optimistic as to the future. He thought Alexeieff was an over-strong disciplinarian. (Lord knows how long discipline of any kind will last with these men, who are really like children). He laid stress on the necessity for supporting the Provisional Government. I assured him that we should do all in our power in that direction, and added quite frankly that it was not only for the sake of Russia, but for the continuation of the war in conjunction with us Allies.
Polivanoff, who is Assistant Minister for War, has arrived. I met him at the staff mess at lunch. He came straight up to me and shook hands most cordially, addressing me as ‘my oldest friend among the Allies’, as I knew him when he was Minister for War. He was in great spirits, said: ‘All is going well, and I like a busy time like this, it suits me. Difficulties and excitement are splendid’. See more
I hope he will not have more than he bargains for; it looks to me as if they had ‘bitten off more than they can chew’.
Last night Alexeieff sent for me and we had a long talk. He is gravely anxious as to what may happen to the Emperor and Empress, who are now, he tells me, under close arrest at Tsarskoye Selo.
He is most anxious that both should be got out of the country to some haven of refuge.
Janin, de Ryckel and I have done what we can to help, having talked it all over, though our efforts to accompany the Emperor to Tsarskoye Selo were snubbed.
Major-General John Headlam, who had been on an ‘artillery adviser’ trip, turned up, and gave me a most interesting account of what he had seen of the feeling among the troops he saw.
Many of the officers had the unfortunate and totally false impression that the Court from the top to bottom was pro-German. At the same time no anti-dynastic sentiment was expressed. The Grand Duke Michael’s appointment was welcomed, and a prospect of the Tsarevitch eventually succeeding was welcomed. The appointment of the Grand Duke Nicholas as C.-in-C. was very popular. The impression was that German intrigues would be effectually checked, and that the change might lead to representative government.
Over and over again he heard the expression: ‘Now we shall have responsible ministers’.
Kieff, through which he had passed, was a mixture of quiet and hysteria.
A Russian officer whom he knew and had just arrived from Petrograd gave him his impressions as follows: -
‘The real danger of the situation lies in the extreme wing of the Labour party, who are nothing but anarchists and terrorists. They are only a small percentage, perhaps 15 per cent., but they exert great influence. These men care nothing for consequences so long as they can spread their own doctrines. They are ready to end the war for this.
The cry is already to kill Rodzianko, who, the anarchists say, is now only thinking of making himself first President of the Republic, and Kerenski, their own socialist representative in the Government, because he is too moderate, and now that he has become a minister does not want to do more.
The Government dare not tackle this anarchist element because they have succeeded in obtaining the support of the soldiers, and the Union is now called the Union of Workers and Soldiers.
The soldiers in question are those in the depots at Petrograd, not 2 per cent. of whom are old soldiers and have been service – mostly youth of 18 to 19. During the first two or three days they looted the food and drink shops, going to sleep on the spot when they got drunk. Now when spoken to they don’t know what they are out for. They are already saying they have done their work in dethroning the Emperor, and demand to be given pensions and let go.
It is very important to avoid letting the anarchist wing get hold of the real army. The delegates who have been sent from the Government will do no harm - they have gone officially and work through the commanders. The danger lies in secret emissaries from the extremists inciting mutiny.
When I woke up, Missi, my orderly and servant, put a crowd of telegrams on my bed.
At 10:30 I went down to see the Empress-Mother at her request, as she is leaving for Kieff. All this is so terribly sad and trying for her, but I never saw a braver person.
The Emperor before leaving bid good-bye to the staff today – a very touching ceremony, I am told, several of the officers bursting into tears.
General Staff have just informed me that telegrams are coming in support of the Grand Duke Nicholas as Commander-in-Chief. The more this feeling can spread the better for the Allied cause, as it might rally the armies back to their work and a more settled frame of mind.
Meanwhile people are walking about the streets here with red ribbons on. Police have all been dismissed, this being a ‘free country’ now (God save the mark!). I saw one of the results today when I was walking with the Italian general past a church. We noticed that the chimney and wall over the stove of this wooden building was ablaze with fire, and the church spire also had caught fire. The people sitting calmly in the presbytery attached didn’t seem to know, so we told them and looked round for someone to give the fire alarm, but police being abolished had to get a stray soldier to go off for the fire brigade, which eventually, not having also been abolished, appeared on the scene and salvaged some of the remains.
On reaching my quarters I found a message to say that the Emperor wanted to see me, or rather that I was wanted at ‘the palace’ at 6 p.m.
I walked down through the gathering darkness and through the gloomy, dirty streets, rendered more sombre by my thoughts as I want along, and there passed through my mind the many happier days when I want to visit the Tsar of all the Russias [sic], who had always received me with that bright and happy smile, which he invariably greeted me with, even when things were not at their best. See more
There were no premonitions about this visit, for I knew full well what was awaiting me now – and that there could be no good news.
Except for a small crowd of loafers outside the entrance gates, there was no one about, and I reached the door of the house, a ray of light from the adjoining General Staff Offices just showing up the muddy path.
At the entrance I was stopped by a sentry with the red band of revolution round his arm. He at first would not hear of my admission, but I explained who I was, and at the same moment the faithful old body-servant of the Emperor appeared and told the sentry to let me pass unhindered.
Each step I took seemed to bring back some memory to me, the stairs along which the little Tsarevitch used to run to bid us good-bye, the ante-room, which used to be full of officers and ministers on official visits, and where we used to gather daily before lunch and dinner, or with a mission, such as that which brought the Field-Marshal’s baton.
The ante-room was empty now and one bracket light only above the piano where I had stood talking to the Empress on the last occasion upon which I saw her.
I had no time for a set or stilted speech, and all I could say when I saw that familiar face again was: ‘I am so sorry’.
I think, indeed I know, he understood.
I walked into the room, being left alone with him.
Apparently everything had been packed up, as the room, which used to be bright with flowers and the photographs and so on on his big table, looked now quite bare.
But he was sitting at the table in his khaki uniform, just as he used to sit when I went to see him.
He looked tired and white, with big black lines under his eyes, but smiled as he shook hands with me, and then asked me to come and sit on the sofa where we could talk.
I asked him if he had been able to sleep, and how the children who were ill at Tsarskoye Selo were getting on.
He told me that he had been able to get a certain amount of sleep, and that the news on the invalids was better. An officer had brought him a letter from the Empress hidden in his tunic. This he said had been a great comfort to him in his anxiety for her and the children.
He said that he had meant to carry out what I had written in my letter to him, but that matters had advanced so quickly, and it was too late. The proposal that the Tsarevitch should take his place with a Regent he could not accept, as he could not bear the separation from his only son, and he knew that the Empress would feel the same.
He was much touched with the offer we had made to accompany him to Tsarskoye Selo, and hoped that he would not have to leave Russia. He did not see that there could be any objection to his going to Crimea, which he hoped would be allowed, and if not, he would sooner go to England than anywhere.
He never referred to any anxiety in regard to his own safety, which was typical of him. The question of his eventual place of asylum is for many and various reasons a difficult one.
He expressed a wish to write to me personally and not through some other channel, and then added that the right thing to do was to support the present Government, as that was the best way to keep Russia in the alliance to conclude the war. On this he laid great stress. He feared the revolution would ruin the armies.
As I prepared to leave he asked me for my photograph, which I sent him tonight, and said he would send me one of his.
As I said ‘good-bye’ in anticipation of the more formal farewell tomorrow, he turned to me and added: ‘Remember, nothing matters but beating Germany’.
I went away sad and depressed, fearing that he has still hopes, though I have none. It was a black night in more senses than one as I walked home.
In the morning I was very happy, I received two letters from dear Alix and two letters from Marie. The wife of Captain Kalobkin from the Finnish regiment brought them. I took a walk in the garden. Mama came to breakfast. We sat together until 3 o'clock, I took a walk; again it started snowing. After tea I received Williams. At 8 o'clock I took Mama to the train.