Our last day in Petrograd ! — and yet, in spite of all that we have gone through, we are sad at the thought. Why is it that Russia casts over all who know her such an indefinable mystic spell that, even when her wayward children have turned their capital into a pandemonium, we are sorry to leave it? See more
I cannot explain the reason, but we are sorry. This afternoon I paid a sorrowful farewell visit to my friend, the Grand Duke Nicholas Michailovich. Though he faces the future with his usual courage, and though he was as witty and charm- ing as ever, he has, I think, the presentiment that sooner or later his fate will be sealed. We both, indeed, felt that we should never meet again, and as I bade him good-bye he embraced me in the old Russian fashion, kissing me on both cheeks and on the forehead. (The Grand Duke Nicholas, his two brothers, and the Grand Duke Paul were shot by the Bolsheviks in the following summer.) Then, when I got back to the Embassy, I wrote a farewell minute thanking the members of my staff from my heart for their many services during those strenuous years of war and revolu- tion, and telHng them how warmly I appreciated the loyal support and the many proofs of personal attach- ment which they had given me. I have just received a charming note in reply which touched me very deeply, written by Lindley on their behalf. To-night we dine with Benjy Bruce, who, as head of the Chancery, has had to bear the burden and heat of the day. He had been my right-hand man throughout, always trying to spare me and to relieve me of as much work as possible, a true and devoted friend for whom I have a sincere affection.
Trotsky has raised another awkward question by proposing to appoint a Russian Representative in London. It is very difficult for us to consent to this, while, if we refuse, he may retaliate by divesting the AUied Embassies of their diplomatic immunities. See more
I have pointed out to the Foreign Office that we shall have to choose between coming to some working arrangement with the Bolsheviks or breaking with them altogether. A complete rupture would leave the Germans a clear field in Russia and would deprive our vested interests of such protection as the Embassy can give them. We should, therefore, in my opinion, only have recourse to it in the last resort.
Trotsky, who is leaving for Brest Litovsk to renew; the peace negotiations, is now accusing us of intending to make a peace sur le dos de la Russie. He told a friend of mine yesterday that it is clear from what Mr. Lloyd George said in a recent speech that the Allies would like to see Germany make a peace ' ' with annexa- tions " with Russia, in the hope that she would, after gorging herself in the east, be more disposed to make concessions in the west. It seems pretty clear from this that he is preparing to beat a retreat and to accept Germany's terms.
Trotsky has addressed a message to the people and Governments of all Allied countries. The Russian Revolution has, he declares, opened the door for an immediate general peace, and if only the Allied Governments will avail themselves of the present favourable opportunity, general negotiations may be commenced at once. See more
If, on the other hand, they refuse to participate in the negotiations, the labouring classes in their respective countries must rise against those who refuse to give the people peace. He concluded by promising the former his full support.
On Christmas night we gave what will be our last entertainment at the Embassy to over a hundred members of our staff and of the various military missions. We began with a concert and variety entertainment, arranged by Colonel Thornhill, and ended up with a sit-down supper. In spite of the prevailing scarcity of provisions, my cook gave us a most sumptuous repast.
Roudneff, the Mayor of Moscow, Goltz, who belongs to the left wing of the social revolutionaries, and the Mayor of Petrograd, sent me a message the other day saying that they wanted to see me and suggesting that I should meet them in the Summer Garden so as not to attract attention. See more
I declined to give them a clandestine meeting of this kind but said that if they would come to the Embassy I should be happy to see them. Roudneff and Goltz came late this evening, having apparently taken every precaution not to be followed.
It is symptomatic of the times we live in that a Socialist of Goltz' extreme views has to come to the Embassy secretly for fear of being arrested as a counter-revolutionary. They had, they said, come to ask me what would be our attitude were the Constituent Assembly to appeal to us to convert the present nego- tiations for a separate peace into negotiations for a general one. They next inquired whether, if Russia, who could not go on wth the war, were to conclude a separate peace, we could do anything to help her from being forced to accept terms prejudicial to the interests of the Allies. Finally, they wanted to know whether Mr. Lloyd George's statement that we were going to fight out the war to a finish was meant seriously or intended as a bluff for the Germans. I returned non- committal answers to all their questions, and, on my explaining the reasons which forced us to go on with the war, they assured me that the social revolutionaries did not hold us, but the Germans, responsible for its continuation. As they were leaving, Roudneff told me that my chair in the municipal council chamber was always at my disposal as the Moscow Duma was not Bolshevik. I am not, however, tempted to occupy it in present circumstances.
Trotzky called this afternoon on the French Ambassador and said that the Allies had always refused to revise their war aims, and that, as he did not wish to be repeatedly put off as his predecessors in office had been, he had decided to open peace negotiations. They would, however, be suspended for a week so as to give the AUies the opportunity of participating in them. He was quite correct and civil. He has not honored me with a visit for fear that I should decline to receive him. See more
About a week ago Trotzky raised the question of diplomatic visas for his couriers' passports and threatened that, unless we accorded him full reciprocity, he would prevent the King's Messengers either entering or leaving Russia. In conversation with Captain Smith, he said that he was perfectly entitled to do this, as I was accredited by a Government which did not recognize the present Russian Government, to one which no longer existed. I was, therefore, technically only a private individual. As I pointed out to the Foreign Office, we are quite at his me^cy, and unless we come to an amicable arrangement we shall not only be deprived of our messenger service, but exposed to other reprisals, such as a refusal to pass our cyphered telegrams or to recognize our diplomatic status. Should that happen the Allied Governments would have to recall their Ambassadors.
I had a bad breakdown a week ago. On getting up in the morning I found I could not walk straight, but lurched about the room as if I were on board ship. Vertigo was, I gather, the cause. I have had to lie up ever since, and my doctor tells me that I am at the end of my tether. I, therefore, telegraphed for leave to come home and have now been authorized to start whenever I like. I am feeling better to-day and pro- pose remaining on till the Constituent has either met or been sent about its business. The latter seems the more likely, as the Bolsheviks have issued a proclamation ordering the arrest of the Cadet leaders and declaring that the enemies of the people, the landlords and the capitalists, must have no place in that assembly. They have already arrested six Cadets who had been elected.
More than twenty-five journalists, representing papers of every shade of opinion save the Bolsheviks, attended the interview to which I had invited the Press. It was rather a trying ordeal, as after Harold Williams had read my statement in Russian and after copies had been handed round, the representatives of the bourgeois Press asked me a number of unnecessary and compromising questions which I could not answer without exposing myself to still more embarrassing questions from the Socialists. See more
Then the correspondent of the Novaya Jizn, Gorki's paper, wanted to know what was meant by a Government recognized by the people,' and whether, when such a Government had been constituted, the Allies would at once open peace negotiations. I replied that a legally constituted Government ought, strictly speaking, to derive its powers from the Constituent Assembly, but that Russia was a country of such surprises that we would not consider ourselves bound by this definition. We were prepared to discuss peace negotiations with such a Government, but before negotiations could be opened with the enemy the Allies must first come to an agreement between themselves, as till such an agreement had been reached they could not treat with Germany with any hope of success. This reply has been severely criticized by the Novaya Jizn and by some of the Bolshevik papers as showing that we will not meet the wishes of the Russian democracy. My statement, on the other hand, has met with warm approval in diplomatic circles and has evoked a cordial expression of thanks from the Russian colony in London. Trotzky alluded to it in a speech which he delivered yesterday. I had, he said, expressed my affection for Russia in five columns of the Press, and the warmth of my sentiments had gladdened him. He would, however, prefer deeds to words.
I sent Captain Smith (the Embassy translator) yesterday to Trotsky to see if it was possible to come to some understanding with him with regard to the British subjects who want to leave Russia. Trotsky replied that in the note which he had addressed to me he had not intended to convey a threat and that I must make allowance for his ignorance of diplomatic language. See more
He had only wished to make it clear that the same treatment must be meted out to Russians in England as to Englishmen in Russia. It was only four days later, after receiving no reply to his note and after reading in the Press that I had decided to forward his note to my Government (the statement that had appeared in the Press to the above effect was false), that he had issued the order in question.
He had also thought it well to warn me that he knew as a fact that I was in touch with some of Kaledin's agents, though he would not mention their names. He could not, he said, act on my suggestion by taking the first step ; but he would engage to allow British subjects to leave at once as soon as I published a statement in the Petrograd Press to the effect that His Majesty's Government were prepared to reconsider the cases of all interned Russians and to allow those who were not proved guilty of any illegal acts to return to Russia.
The above question was finally settled by His Majesty's Government consenting to repatriate the interned Russians, provided that freedom of movement was restored to British subjects in Russia.
Trotzky has published a reply to the effect that the Allied Governments had been made aware of his intention to propose a general armistice by the appeal, which the Soviet had addressed to the democracies of the world on November 8. If his note had reached the Embassy rather late, this was entirely due to secondary causes of a technical character. I hear that the Soviet disapproves of Trotzky's recent attitude towards me.
Our position is becoming very difficult as, while it is impossible for our Government to yield to threats, it is very hard on our subjects, who have come here from the provinces on their way home, to be put to the expense of remaining on indefinitely. See more
I do not, moreover, at all want to see the members of our propaganda bureau arrested. There is, after all, something in Trotsky's argument that, if we claim the right to arrest Russians for making a pacifist propaganda in a country bent on continuing the war, he has an equal right to arrest British subjects who are conducting a war propaganda in a country bent on peace.
Trotsky, I hear, is very angry with me for not answering his note. On my sending Consul Woodhouse to endeavor to obtain the necessary permission for some of our subjects to go home, he said that it had been decided that no British subjects would be allowed to leave Russia till the question of the two interned Russians had been satisfactorily settled. See more
He added that Chicherin was a personal friend of his, and he was particularly anxious to secure his release as he proposed appointing him his diplomatic representative in one of the Allied capitals. In the event of our Government refusing to release him, he threatened to arrest certain British subjects whom he knew to be counter-revolutionaries.
About half-past nine the same evening General Niessel, the French military representative, came to see me. Trotzky, he said, had told a French officer, who was a Socialist and in close touch with the Bolsheviks, that he had a special grudge against me, not because I was indisposing my Government against him, but because I had, ever since the overthrow of the late Government, not only been in constant touch with Kaledin and the committee of public safety but had even supplied the latter with funds. He was therefore contemplating arresting me, and should this lead to a rupture of relations between our two Gk>vernments he would keep a certain number of British subjects as hostages. General Niessel did not think that Trotzky would dare arrest me in the Embassy, but as he knows that I am in the habit of taking a daily walk he might do so when I was out of doors. By way of cheering me, the General added that, from inquiries which he had made, he believed that the most comfortable cells in the fortress were between the Numbers 30 and 86 and that should the worst happen I had better bear this in mind.
I did not take Trotzky's threat too seriously and continued my walks as usual without any unpleasant consequences. Only once, as I was turning into a side street off the quay, I nearly got into the middle of a fight that was going on at the other end. I w^as fortunately stopped in time by a friend of ours. Princess Marie Troubetzkoi, who happened to be passing. She assured me that she had saved my life, and insisted on seeing me safe home to the Embassy, as no one would, she said, attack me if I was with a lady.
I have received a note from Trotsky demanding the release of two Russians — Chicherin and Petroff — who have been interned in England for the anti-war propaganda which they have apparently been making among our workmen. See more
Russian democracy would not, the note went on to say, tolerate the imprisonment of two innocent fellow countrymen and allow British subjects who were carrying on an active propaganda in favor of a counter-revolution to go unpunished.
Trotsky has communicated to the Allied military attaches a note asserting that his Government never desired a separate but a general peace, but that it was determined to have peace. It will, the note concluded, be the fault of the Allied Governments if Russia has after all to make a separate peace. See more
I have come to the conclusion that the only thing for us to do is to faire bonne mine a mauvais jeu. Acting on an idea originally suggested by Knox, I have telegraphed to the Foreign Office as follows:
"I share the view, already expressed by General Knox, that the situation here has become so desperate that we must reconsider our attitude.
In my opinion, the only safe course left to us is to give Russia back her word and to tell her people that, realizing how worn out they are by the war and the disorganization inseparable from a great revolution, we leave it to them to decide whether they will purchase peace on Germany's terms or fight on with the Allies, who are determined not to lay down their arms till binding guarantees for the world's peace have been secured. It has always been my one aim and object to keep Russia in the war, but one cannot force an exhausted nation to fight against its will. If anything could tempt Russia to make one more effort, it would be the knowledge that she was perfectly free to act as she pleased, without any pressure from the Allies. There is evidence to show that Germany is trying to make an irreparable breach between us and Russia, so as to pave the way for the German protectorate which she hopes eventually to establish over the latter. For us to hold to our pound of flesh and to insist on Russia fulfilling her obligations, under the 1914 Agreement, is to play Germany's game. Every day that we keep Russia in the war against her will does but embitter her people against us. If we release her from those obligations, the national resentment will turn against Germany if peace is delayed or purchased on too onerous terms. For us it is a matter of life and death to checkmate this latest German move, for a Russo-German Alliance after the war would constitute a perpetual menace to Europe, and more especially to Great Britain.
I am not advocating any transaction with the Bolshevik Government. On the contrary, I believe that the adoption of the course which I have suggested will take the wind out of their sails, as they will no longer be able to reproach the Allies with driving Russian soldiers to the slaughter for their Imperialistic aims."
The Allied military representatives at headquarters have protested officially to Dukhonin against the infraction of the agreement of September 1914, and told him that it might have the most serious consequences. See more
The veiled threat contained in the last words has been interpreted to mean that we are about to call on Japan to attack Russia. It was an ill-advised step that has done us any amount of harm. Trotzky has in consequence issued a fiery appeal to the soldiers, peasants, and workmen against our interference in Russian affairs. He told them that our imperialistic Govern- ments were trying to whip them back to the trenches and to make cannon fodder of them. He urged the soldiers to elect their representatives and to open negotiations at once with the Germans.
The elections for the Constituent Assembly commenced today. At yesterday's meeting of the garrison, which was attended by representatives of all the political groups, the Bolsheviks obtained what virtually amounted to a vote of confidence.