Tolstoy described the conversations of the summer of 1917 thus, “Will we perish or not? Will Russia be or not? Will they slaughter the intelligentsia or let us live?” The other said, “Leave it, old chap, there’s no point in slaughtering us, rubbish, I don’t believe it, but they will ransack the grocery stores;” a third reported, based on a reliable source, that “by the first, the city will start dying out from hunger.”
All of Moscow was living like a passenger at a railway station, waiting for the third bell. Round-ups of deserters were organised. There was swearing and shouting everywhere particularly on the trams, which crawled along, plastered with people. Desperate liberals drank champagne in the Metropol Hotel, paying with large packs of uncut “Kerenki” banknotes. See more
Out of habit, they mumbled that they had to save Russia. Perhaps they were hoping to save themselves, too, but they no longer believed in anything. In the “Bom” Cafe, newly-minted publishers assured us that they would publish the “Gavriliad”, Rasputin’s memoirs, or the collected works of any one of us. Some of these quickly lost enthusiasm for publishing and went in for dry goods and sugar instead. In the tea-houses on Shabolovka, people waited gloomily for things to come to a head.
Everyone in France has their gaze, longing and bitter, fixed on Russia. I’ve been to the front, to Paris, to suburban villages, and everywhere I’ve heard the same question: See more
-Russians, what will those Russians do?
In the Vyborg quarter they curse the “bourgeois”, on Nevsky the “Bolsheviks”. On a tram an old man declared:
- It’s the yids, I say kill them... See more
Everyone heartily approved. Another man said:
- It’s the bourgeois.
The same universal agreement.
I can't remember who introduced me to Mayakovsky; at first we were sitting in a cafe and discussing cinema; then he invited me over - to a small room at "Saint-Remo" in Saltykovsky lane, near Petrovka street. See more
As soon as we entered the room he said "Let me read to you..." I sat down on a chair, he was standing. He had read to me his finished poem "Human" not long before that. The room was small, there was no one but me present, but he was reading aloud as if he were standing in front of a crowd on Teatralnaya square. I was looking at shoddy wallpaper and smiling: bootlegs were indeed turning into harps.
On the streets, deserters were caught; The patrols who checked the documents themselves were like deserters. Two officers took away from a woman a bag of sugar. "Herods!": she yelled. When she was left, one of officers shouted that soon she would be executed. Kerensky indulges the bag-makers, but sooner or later he will be put to justice.
Then the officers, not being shy of passers-by, divided the catch among themselves. In shops it was possible to buy Havana cnigars, Sevres vases, verses of Countess de Noah. Then the officers, not being shy of passers-by, divided the catch among themselves. In shops it was possible to buy Havana cnigars, Sevres vases, verses of Countess de Noah. In confectioneries coffee was served with honey (sugar was gone) and instead of cakes - thin slices of white bread and jam. The cabmen did not talk about the oats anymore, only they sulked sullenly.
I have been searched many times in my life, but no one has displayed such mastery in that art as the English. They forced me to take off my boots and carried them off somewhere; they examined all the seams on my jacket and my pants; they took away my notebook for inspection. And yet the Englishman who did all this perpetually wore a kindly smile—one could not even get angry at him. See more
In London, we were told that the date when our journey will continue is unknown: it is a military secret. Everything here has been calmer than in Paris, maybe because the war is farther away, or maybe because Englishmen aren’t fond of being nervous. To me, the city seemed beautiful, majestic, and gloomy. I thought, “Here, they would put Modigliani in an insane asylum…”
Finally, I’ve been given a passport on behalf of the Provisional Government; but I still had to obtain a visa. It was the first time I’d heard that word, before the war there were no visas. The day came where I had all three visas – English, Norwegian and Swedish. See more
Diego Rivera was happy for me – I’m going to the revolution, and he has already seen the revolution in Mexico; neither is a pleasant business. Modigliani said to me: “Maybe we’ll see each other, and maybe we won’t. It seems to me that all of us will either be imprisoned or killed…”.
Before the war I have seen one of Diaghilev’s ballets that caused a scandal—Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” But I have never seen anything like what happened at the “Parade.” People, sitting in the orchestra, rushed towards the stage, and angrily screamed, “Curtain!” See more
While at the same time a horse with a cubist muzzle came on stage and began to perform circus tricks—went on its knees, danced, bowed. The spectators, it seemed, thought that the artists were making fun of them and have completely lost their heads, screaming, “Death to the Russians! Picasso—Boche! Russians—Boches!”
Of course, a frenzied crowd smashing a town and killing people is appalling. Man is terrible, and is capable of destroying everything when blinded by hatred. Beastly anger, anger, and insanity. But a hundred times worse is the cruelty of a cold, sober mind, it’s a death sentence for an entire country, carried out for strategic or diplomatic purposes. See more
I saw what the Germans did to Suason and Picardy before they were eliminated. This is not the revelry of a drunken soldier. Nor is it a military necessity. It's not even the barbarity of a commander. It’s the calculating work of a rival.
In the last two years, the Germans have tormented the population. Some were forced to work, others were imprisoned, and still others were shot. What were they punished for? Well, villagers had to report every egg smashed by a hen. Old Louisa hid an egg—straight to the commandant. Paul forgot the new street names and didn’t say "Hindenburgstrasse" but used the old name "Rue de Leglize" and he was sent straight to the commandant.
Before leaving, the Germans ordered the villagers to move to the towns, and in the towns they gathered everyone on the outskirts. Special teams of "arsonists" went around the countryside on bicycles burning everything along the way—factories, estates, farms, and houses.
In Chaulnes, there were delicate pink pear trees arranged on a trellis. I walked closer to the walls and saw that all the trees—more than two hundred—were cut to the root. Peasant soldiers stood next to me.
One of them said:
--The bastards! Why? You know how much work it takes to grow these.
There were tears in his eyes from offense or anger. He couldn't understand how it was possible to destroy the work of so many years in just a minute. Perhaps the person who carried out the order to destroy this garden was also a peasant, and now somewhere in Bavaria, the same pears are now blossoming in his garden.
Anger has no boundries, and if this Frenchman ever gets into the German's garden, he will also chop down his delicate rosy trees.
The Senegalese are getting on very well with the Russian soldiers. A shared child-like simplicity of spirit, naivety and kindness has brought them together. They spoke, as it were, over each other’s heads, not understanding a word and yet spending hours together communicating in smiles over bottles of beer. The good-natured Russians say: “don’t get hung up on his black skin. What kind of soul he’s got, that’s what you need to look at”.
In the military hospital at Vanves, Paris, Russian lance corporal Stepan B. is being seen to by a French nurse. She tells him about what the Germans did to her home town of Lunéville. A Russian nurse translates:
“…And an entire block was burnt to the ground. Thirty-two houses. The men were taken out of town and shot. The Église Saint-Jean was torched, as was the Jewish synagogue; and they went round to the neighbours and grabbed the old woman…”
She explains everything at length, and the soldier sighs:
“That isn’t good, the poor woman!”
Then the French nurse says, smiling, “But when you Russians get to Germany you’ll show them what’s what. I only want one thing – I want all the Germans slaughtered.”
The Russian nurse translates. Stepan looks at her, bewildered, flummoxed.
“How’s that, then?.. What, are we animals?.. Oh no, young miss, that simply isn’t on…”