It would not do for me to leave Petrograd, as my presence here reassures the colony, and it is better that I should remain and await events. My Allied colleagues, with whom I have discussed the question of the attitude which we should adopt towards the new Government when it is formed, all agree that we cannot recognize it officially but differ as to whether we should or should not enter into unofficial relations with it. See more
I personally am of opinion that we must establish some sort of contact with it for the conduct of certain current affairs.
Mr. Balfour agreed that this was essential in the interests of the Allied Colonies, and it was decided that our Consuls should, when necessary, serve as the channel of communication between us and the Government.
There has been a serious split in the ranks of the Bolsheviks, and eight of the fourteen commissaries have tendered their resignation as a protest against such arbitrary measures as the suppression of liberty of the Press, etc. The Government is now in the hands of a small clique of extremists, who are bent on imposing their will on the country by terroristic methods. See more
There are signs of growing dissatisfaction at the prolongation of the crisis, both among the troops and the workmen, and several factories have sent delegates to the Smolny Institute to tell the Bolsheviks that they must come to an agreement with the other Socialist organizations. Some of them held very outspoken language, saying that all that Lenin and Trotzky wanted was to sleep, as Kerensky had done, in Nicholas's bed. It was hoped at first that the secession of so many of their leaders would bring the more moderate members of their party into line with the representatives of the other Socialistic groups, and that a Government would be formed from which Lenin and Trotzky would be excluded. This hope has not been realized, and the extremists are now making great efforts to win over the left wing of the Social Revolutionary party and to induce the seceding members of their own party to return. If they succeed in this they will consolidate their position for the time being; but if the peace which they have promised is long delayed and if the supply of bread, which is getting scarcer every day, fails, the masses may rise and overthrow them. Except in the Ministry of War, the majority of the departmental staffs are still on strike.
The situation is now hopeless, as the Bolsheviks are masters in the north and at Moscow; and though Kaledin holds the south, there is no chance of his making headway in the north.
Verkhovski came to see me to-day. He said that Kerensky had not wanted the Cossacks to suppress the rising by themselves, as that would have meant the end of the revolution. See more
He declared that the moderate Socialists still had a chance of forming a Government, and said that if he were authorized to tell the troops that the Allies would discuss and draw up their peace terms for presentation to the Germans he would be able to detach many of them from the Bolsheviks.
The Bolsheviks have reoccupied Tsarskoe and are now confident of victory. In Petrograd, they are supported by the ships which they have brought up from Kronstadt, one of which is anchored close to the Embassy. Were the Cossacks now to try to effect an entry, the town would probably be bombarded. See more
We are so entirely cut off from the outside world that we know but little of what is passing in the Provinces; but at Moscow, where a regular battle has been going on for the last few days, the Bolsheviks are regaining the upper hand. The number of killed is said to be about a couple of thousand, and the town appears to be given over to pillage at the hands of a drunken mob that had seized the spirit stores.
Nobody at the Embassy or in the colony has so far suffered, but we are still having a very anxious time. Yesterday a report reached us from two sources that an attack was to be made on the Embassy in the course of the night. In addition to our Polish guard we have six British officers sleeping in the house, and Knox, who acts as commander-in-chief, is a tower of strength in these troublous times. Though the Bolsheviks, who want to stand well w4th the Allies, are hardly likely to encourage such an attack, there is always the danger that German agents may incite the Red Guard to raid the Embassy in order to cause friction between Great Britain and Russia. In spite of the measures taken for the maintenance of order, life is not very secure at present, and this morning a Russian petty officer was shot dead in front of our windows for refusing to give up his sword to some armed workmen.
The telephone station was recaptured yesterday by a combined force of soldiers, sailors, and workmen, but not without casualties on both sides. See more
Detachments of troops with field guns then surrounded the different military schools and demanded their unconditional surrender. At one of them, where serious resistance was offered, it is said that the casualties exceeded two hundred and that several cadets were thrown out from the windows on the top story. By 10 p.m. the Bolsheviks were once more in possession of the whole town.
The last two days have passed without disturbance, and yesterday it was generally believed that Kerensky's troops would be here by now and that the situation would be liquidated. See more
Acting under this belief, the Committee of Public Safety encouraged the cadets of the military schools to occupy the Central Telephone Office and to act on the offensive in other parts of the town. The situation has in consequence once more become acute, and there is firing all over the town.
Our guard of eight cadets distinguished themselves the other day by appropriating a case of whiskey and a case of claret belonging to the secretaries. Most of them were ill the next day, and some were sick in the hall. So far from their protecting us, it is rather we who are protecting them. Luckily an extra guard of Polish soldiers with an officer was given us on Friday, and we have managed to send the cadets safely home dressed up as civilians.
The Bolsheviks have formed a Government, with Lenin as First Commissary and Trotsky as Commissar for Foreign Affairs. It is to be called "The Council of the People's Commissaries," and is to act under the immediate control of the Central Committee of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets. See more
Trotzky went this afternoon to the Ministry and sent for the members of the staff, and expressed the hope that he could count on their collaboration. They all refused, and some of the lady clerks even told him that he was a German. He asked Tattischef, Tereschenko's Chef de Cabinet, whether the Ambassadors would call on him or whether he ought to pay them the first visit. On being told that the usual procedure was for a new Minister to inform them by letter of his assumption of office, he said that such a procedure was all very well under the old regime but hardly suited present conditions. One paper announced that he had called on me but had not got further than the doormat; and I, quite undeservedly, received in the afternoon a bouquet of flowers from some "Young Russians," with "Bravo! Thank you!" written on a card. The example set by the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been followed in most of the other Ministries, and the machinery of government is consequently at a standstill.
The All Russian Congress of Soviets yesterday published a decree, appealing to the democracies of all belligerent Powers to assist them in relieving humanity from the horrors of war, and proposing an immediate armistice of three months to allow time for the conclusion of a democratic peace without annexations or contributions. The term "annexations," it was explained, referred to the forcible retention of any foreign territory irrespective of the date of its occupation. The Congress further decreed the nationalization of the land.
The Committee of Public Safety appears to favour the formation of a purely Socialist Government, exclusive of, but relying on, the support of the Cadets. They are united in their wish to suppress the Bolsheviks, but there their union ends, some being in favour of adopting the Bolshevist programme with regard to peace and the land, while the others are strongly opposed to such a course.
Paget telegraphs from Copenhagen that our Military Attache had been informed by an escaped Russian prisoner that he had been engaged by the Germans as an agent for anti-British propaganda in Petrograd. He had, he said, been instructed to get in touch with the Bolsheviks and to arrange, among other things, for my assassination. I have also received a copy of a leaflet, which the Germans have recently been dropping from aeroplanes among the Russian troops on the southern front, telling them that though they had got rid of Tsar Nicholas, the British Ambassador was still enthroned as Tsar at Petrograd, that he imposed his wishes on the Russian Government, and that so long as he remained reigning in Russia and drinking Russian blood they would never have peace or liberty.
Korniloff has succeeded in escaping and has joined Kaledin in the south. They are believed to be masters of the Donetz basin. Kerensky is utterly discredited with all parties, and the troops, if they do come to Petrograd, will not fight to restore his Government, but to support the Socialist groups who have turned against the revolution.
Aksentieff, the president of the Provisional Council, who came to see me today, assured me that, though the Bolsheviks had succeeded in overthrowing the Government owing to the latter's criminal want of foresight, they would not hold out many days. At last night's meeting of the Congress of All Russian Soviets, they had found themselves completely isolated, as all the other Socialist groups had denounced their methods and had refused to take any further part in the proceedings. See more
The Council of Peasants had also pronounced against them. The Municipal Council, he went on to say, was forming a Committee of Public Safety composed of representatives of the Provisional Council, the Central Committee of the Soviet, the Peasants' Council, and the Committee of Delegates from the front ; while the troops, which were expected from Pskov, would probably arrive in a couple of days. I told him that I did not share his confidence.
I received today the following reply from Mr. Balfour to my telegram informing him that I was remaining on at Petrograd :
"I appreciate your intention to remain at your post and wish to give you once more an assurance of the sympathy of His Majesty's Government and of their complete confidence in your discretion and judgment. You have, of course, full discretion to leave for Moscow or any other place, should you think it desirable to do so, and you should pay special attention to your own personal safety."
At six o'clock yesterday evening armoured cars took up positions at all points commanding the approaches to the Winter Palace, and shortly afterwards delegates from the revolutionary committee came and demanded its unconditional surrender. See more
As no answer was returned, the signal for attack was given by the firing at 9 p.m. of a few blank rounds by the guns of the fortress and of the cruiser Aurora. The bombardment which followed was kept up continually till ten o'clock when there was a lull for about an hour. At eleven o'clock it began again, while all the time, as we watched it from the Embassy windows, the trams were running as usual over the Troitski Bridge.
The garrison of the palace consisted mainly of cadets from the military school and of a company of the women's battalion — for Russian women had been fighting at the front, and had by their courage and patriotism set a bright example that ought to have shamed the men. There was, however, no organized defense, and the casualties on either side were but few in number. The Ministers meanwhile must have passed through a terrible ordeal as they moved about from room to room, not knowing what fate was in store for them. By half-past two in the morning parties of the attacking force had penetrated into the palace by side entrances and disarm€d the garrison. The Ministers were then arrested and marched off through hostile crowds to the fortress. They seem to have been well treated by the commandant, who apparently thought it prudent to make friends with the mammon of unrighteousness for fear, as he remarked to someone, that the tables might be one day turned and that he might find himself an occupant of one of their cells.
I walked out this afternoon to see the damage that had been done to the Winter Palace by the prolonged bombardment of the previous evening, and to my surprise found that, in spite of the near range, there were on the river side but three marks where the shrapnel had struck. On the town side, the walls were riddled with thousands of bullets from machine guns, but not one shot from a field gun that had been fired from the opposite side of the Palace Square had struck the building.
About ten in the morning Kerensky sent out an officer to try to get him another motor. The officer found Whitehouse, one the secretaries of the United States Embassy, and persuaded him to lend Kerensky his car with the American flag. They drove back together to the Winter Palace. After telling Whitehouse that he proposed driving to Luga to join the troops which had been summoned from the front, he begged him to ask the Allied Ambassadors not to recognize the Bolshevik Government, as he hoped to return on the 12th with sufficient troops to re-establish the situation.
"I heard this morning that the executive committee of the Soviet had decided to form a Government, and at half -past twelve one of the cadets sent me a message to say that the Bolsheviks would oust the Ministers from their respective departments in the course of the next few days. See more
At one o'clock the three Ministers — Tereschenko, Konovalov, and Tretyakov — whom I had asked to luncheon arrived quite unmoved. On my remarking that after the reports which had reached me that morn- ing I had hardly expected to see them, they said that those reports, to say the least, were premature.
Tereschenko then told me that he had, on a preceding evening, gone to Kerensky and had persuaded him to issue an order for the arrest of the executive committee of the Soviet, but that after he had left that order had been cancelled on the advice of a third person. They all three assured me that the Government had sufficient force behind them to deal with the situation, though Tetriakoff spoke very disparagingly of Kerensky, saying that he was too much of a Socialist to be relied on to put down anarchy. I told him that I could not understand how a Government that respected itself could allow Trotzky to go on inciting the masses to murder and pillage without arresting him, and Konovaloff said that he quite agreed. The Russian revolution, he remarked, had passed through several phases and we had now arrived at the last. He trusted that I would, before leaving for England, see a great change in the situation. Turning to Tereschenko, I said : * I shan't believe that we are really going till we are on the train.' 'And I,' he replied, 'not till we have crossed the Swedish frontier.'
Unless Kerensky is prepared to throw in his lot unreservedly with those of his colleagues who advocate a firm, continuous policy, the sooner he goes the better. The Government is but a Government in name and things cannot be much worse than they are at present. E\en if they have to make way for the Bolsheviks, the latter would not be able to hold out for long, and would sooner or later provoke a counter-revolution.
Tereschenko spoke again this afternoon in the Provisional Council, but on the question being put to the vote, there was a majority against the Government. The resolution eventually adopted, while condemning the contemplated Bolshevik rising, threw the responsibility for the crisis on the Government. The situation, it affirmed, could only be saved by transferring the control of the land to the land committees and by inducing the Allies to publish their conditions and to commence negotiations for peace. In order, moreover, to cope with any counter-revolutionary or subversive movement it advocated the formation of a committee of public safety, composed of representatives of the organs of revolutionary democracy, that was to act in concert with the Provisional Government."
"Verkhovski, the Minister of War, has resigned. He had always contended that if the troops were to be kept in the trenches they must be told what they were fighting for, and that we ought, therefore, to publish our peace terms and to throw the responsibility for the continuance of the war on the Germans. See more
At last night's meeting of the committee of the Provisional Council he seems to have completely lost his head, declaring that Russia must make peace at once, and that, .when once peace had been concluded, a military dictator must be appointed to ensure the maintenance of order. On Tereschenko, who was supported by all the other members of the committee, demanding the withdrawal of this declaration, he tendered his resigna- tion, which was accepted."
Tereschenko, whom I met this afternoon at the Provisional Council, told me that Scobeleff had to-day held more conciliatory language and had spoken of the instructions which he had received as representing, not the demands, but the wishes of the Russian democracy as to the attitude to be adopted by their delegate should the subjects touched on come up for discussion at the conference. See more
The question as to whether Scobeleff would accompany him to Paris would not, he added, be settled till the close of the debate on Monday, the 5th. Tereschenko is much perturbed by the statement recently made in the House of Commons that the conference will deal exclusively .with the conduct of the war. It had, he said, greatly added to his difficulties, as, though the conduct of the war must naturally form the main object of discussion, it was unnecessary to tell the Russian democracy at such a critical moment as the present that all discussion of our war aims would be barred.
Tereschenko delivered a speech in the Provisional Council in which he not only made a firm stand against the Soviet's claim to any separate repre- sentation at the conference, but also denounced in no measured language the instructions which they had given to Scobeleff. See more
While his speech did not go far enough to satisfy the right, the Socialists complained that his uncompromising attitude on the subject of their instructions had rendered co-operation between the Government and the democracy almost impossible. In the discussion which followed Tereschenko was bitterly attacked, and on the following day Scobeleff told Kerensky that, unless the Government sent someone else to Paris, revolutionary democracy would give up all idea of being represented at the conference. The leaders of the different democratic groups, whom Kerensky consulted, all supported Scobeleff, and warned Kerensky that if Tereschenko went to the con- ference the Government would find its relations with the left wing of the Provisional Council seriously compromised.