The firing, which had died down by this morning, began again about ten o'clock; it seemed to be pretty vigorous in the region of the Admiralty. Armoured cars, with machine-guns and displaying red flags, were continually passing the embassy at top speed. More fires were blazing at several points in the capital. See more
Close to the Summer Garden I met one of the Ethiopians who used to mount guard at the Emperor's door and had often ushered me into the imperial study. The honest man was also wearing civilian clothes and looked very dejected. We walked together for a short distance there were tears in his eyes. I tried to comfort him a little and shook his hand. While he was walking away I watched him with amused eyes. In this collapse of a whole political and social system he stands for the monarchical splendours of other days, the picturesque and sumptuous ceremonial introduced by Elizabeth and Catherine the Great (long ago) and all that magic atmosphere which was conjured up by the words which will henceforth mean nothing: "The Court of Russia."
I met Buchanan in the vestibule of the Ministry. Pokrovski said to us:
"The Council of Ministers has been sitting continuously all night in the Marie Palace. The Emperor has no illusions about the gravity of the situation, as he has given General Ivanov extraordinary powers to restore order; he also seems determined to reconquer his capital by force and will not hear of making terms with troops who have killed their officers and raised the red flag. But I doubt whether General Ivanov, who was at Mogilev yesterday, will ever reach Petrograd: the insurgents are in control of all the railways. And even if he succeeded in getting here, what could he do? All the regiments have gone over to the revolution. Only certain isolated detachments and a few bodies of police are still offering resistance. Of my colleagues in the ministry the majority are in flight and several have been arrested. I personally had the greatest difficulty in getting away from the Marie Palace tonight. Why, I'm awaiting my fate at this moment."
About five o'clock, a high official,. K-----, came to see me.
He then told me abruptly that he had been asked to see me by President Rodzianko, and asked me if I had no advice, no suggestion to send him.
"As French Ambassador," I said, "the war is my main concern of course, so I want the effects of the revolution to be kept down as much as possible and order to be restored at the earliest moment. Don't forget that the French army is making preparations for a great offensive and that the Russian army is bound in honour to do its share."
"Nicholas II cannot be allowed to reign any more; no one has any confidence left in him and he has lost all authority. In any case, he would never consent to sacrifice the Empress."
"You may change the Tsar, but you should stick to tsarism."
During a day which has been prolific in grave events and may perhaps have determined the future of Russia for a century to come, I have made a note of one episode which seems trivial at first sight, but in reality is highly significant. The town house of Kchechinskaïa, at the end of the Kammenny-Ostrov Prospekt and opposite Alexander Park, was occupied by the insurgents today and sacked from top to bottom. I remember a detail which makes it easy to see why the residence of the famous dancer has been singled out by mob fury. It was last winter; the cold was intense and the thermometer had fallen to-35°. Sir George Buchanan, whose embassy is centrally heated, had been unable to procure coal, which is the essential fuel for that system. He had appealed to the Russian Admiralty, but in vain. That very morning Sazonov had definitely told him it was impossible to find coal in any public depot. In the afternoon we went for a walk together on the Islands, as the sky was clear and there was no wind. Just as we were entering Kammenny-Ostrov Prospekt, Buchanan burst out: "Well, if that isn't a bit too thick!" He pointed to four military lorries opposite the dancer's house; they were laden with sacks of coal which a squad of soldiers was engaged in removing. "Don't worry, Sir George," I said. "You haven't the same claim as Madame Kchechinskaïa to the attentions of the imperial authorities."
It is probable that for years past many thousands of Russians have made similar remarks about the favours heaped upon Kchechinskaïa. The ballerina, once the beloved of the Tsarevitch and subsequently courted by two Grand Dukes at once, has become as it were a symbol of the imperial order. It is that symbol which has been attacked by the plebs today. A revolution is always more or less a summary and a sanction.
The old Government had ceased to exist, and all its members, with the exception of Pokrowski and of the Minister of Marine, Admiral Grigorowich, had been arrested. By the evening the whole garrison, as well as all the troops which had arrived from Tsarskoe and the neighbouring districts, had gone over to the Duma, while many officers had also offered their services. So far as Petrograd was concerned, the revolution was already an accomplished fact; but the situation was beset with colossal difficulties. The workmen were armed, numbers of released criminals were at large, in many regiments the soldiers were without officers, while in the Duma a sharp struggle was proceeding between the executive committee and the newly formed Soviet. See more
The Duma had been the rallying point of the troops who had achieved the revolution. Its leaders were for the most part Monarchists and advocates of a war to a victorious finish. But at the critical moment they failed to assert themselves, and allowed the Democrats, who were pronounced Republicans, with a large percentage of pacifists, to forestall them and to assume control over the troops. They had further tolerated the session in one of their own assembly rooms of a rival body, the Soviet, that, without any legal status, had constituted itself the representative council of the workmen and soldiers. If only there had been among its members a real leader of men, capable of profiting by the first natural move of the insurgent troops towards the Duma, to rally them round that assembly as the only legally constituted organ m the country, the Russian revolution might have had a happier sequel. But no such leader arose, and, while the Duma was still deliberating and seeking for a policy, the Democrats, who knew their own minds, acted. Once assured of the support of the troops, Cheidze, their leader, was, as he told a British officer, master of the situation.
At half-past eight this morning, just as I finished dressing, I heard a strange and prolonged din which seemed to come from the Alexander Bridge. I looked out: there was no one on the bridge, which usually presents such a busy scene. But, almost immediately, a disorderly mob carrying red flags appeared at the end which is on the right bank of the Neva, and a regiment came towards it from the opposite side. It looked as if there would be a violent collision, but on the contrary the two bodies coalesced. The army was fraternizing with revolt. See more
About half-past eleven I went to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
I told Pokrovski everything I had just witnessed.
"So it's even more serious than I thought," he said.
But he preserved unruffled composure, flavoured with a touch of scepticism, when he told me of the steps on which the ministers had decided during the night:
"The sitting of the Duma has been prorogued to April and we have sent a telegram to the Emperor, begging him to return at once. My colleagues and I all thought that a dictatorship should be established without delay; it would be conferred upon some general whose prestige with the army is pretty high."
I argued that, judging by what I saw this morning, the loyalty of the army was already too heavily shaken for our hopes of salvation to be based on the use of the "strong hand," and that the immediate appointment of a ministry inspiring confidence in the Duma seemed to me more essential than ever, as there is not a moment to lose. I reminded Pokrovski that in 1789, 1830 and 1848, three French dynasties were overthrown because they were too late in realizing the significance and strength of the movement against them. I added that in such a grave crisis the representative of allied France had a right to give the Imperial Government advice on a matter of internal politics.
Buchanan endorsed my opinion.
I asked Pokrovsky:
"Is there no one who can open the Emperor's eyes to the real situation?"
He heaved a despairing sigh.
"The Emperor is blind!"
Deep grief was writ large on the face of the honest man and good citizen whose uprightness, patriotism and disinterestedness I can never sufficiently extol.
Conclusions of the Strategic Council: Military operations in 1917 will be decisive; offences will be launched on various fronts without sparing any and all resources available to the allied armies.
When I entered the ministry, there was still no Japanese ambassador, since the previous ambassador, Motono, had been appointed minister of foreign affairs. Incidentally, I’d been acquainted with him before, but only very slightly; despite his extremely unsightly, almost simian appearance, he came across as a very intelligent man possessed of a great deal of knowledge about Russian affairs. Motono was succeded by Viscount Uchida. He’d previously served as Minister of Foreign Affairs: a robust fellow, he struck me as a very energetic character. Of course, he was not yet familiar with Russian life. But the staff of the Japanese embassy seemed to be more adept than others at familiarising themselves with Russian affairs. This was obvious from Uchida’s dealings with people, and from the dispatches he sent to Japan, and which we intercepted. He saw, with a clear and sober eye, our internal degeneration, and saw, too, that a revolution was approaching.
Maurice Paléologue, the French ambassador, is a very lively and affable man. An old bachelor and lover of the fair sex, he’s a jovial fellow, just like all Frenchmen. He knows but little of the affairs of the country in which he has resided for several years.