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Age: 58
Lives in: Petrograd, Russian Empire
Occupation: French Ambassador to the Russian Court

Project 1917 is a series of events that took place a hundred years ago as described by those involved. It is composed only of diaries, letters, memoirs, newspapers and other documents

We spent the whole of yesterday crossing Finland "of the thousand lakes."

The moment the frontier was passed, how far we felt from Russia! In every town, and even the smallest village, the appearance of the houses with their clean windows, spotless shutters, shiny tiled floors and straight fences, indicated decency, order, domestic economy, a sense of comfort and home. Under the grey sky, the landscape was deliciously pretty and varied, particularly towards evening, when we were between Tavastehus and Tammerfors. See more

When I reached the Finland Station this morning, I found Sazonov by the carriage which had been reserved for us. In grave tones he said to me:

"All our plans are changed; I'm not coming with you. . ... Read this!"

He gave me a letter, dated the same night and just put in his hands, in which Prince Lvov asked him to postpone his departure as Miliukov had sent in his resignation.

"I go and you stay behind," I said. "Isn't it symbolical?" See more

Miliukov gave a farewell luncheon to me, to which the Marquis Carlotti, Albert Thomas, Sazonov, Neratov, Tatischev, etc., were invited.

Gutchkov's resignation and alarmist protest have made them all very gloomy. See more

The War Minister, Gutchkov, has sent in his resignation on the ground that he is powerless to change the conditions under which supreme authority is held, "conditions which threaten to have consequences fatal to the liberty, safety, and indeed the very existence, of Russia."

Generals Gourko and Brussilov have asked to be relieved of their commands. See more

After several farewell visits at various points on the English Quay, I passed Falconet's monument of Peter the Great. It was bound to be my last chance of seeing this superb evocation of the Tsar legislator and conqueror, a masterpiece of equestrian statuary; so I had my car stopped. See more

My company of Russian friends has already been widely scattered. Some have gone to take up residence in Moscow, hoping to find the atmosphere there less stormy. Others have retired to their estates, with the idea that their presence will have a good moral effect on the peasants. Others have emigrated to Stockholm. See more

I lunched at the Italian Embassy with Miliukov, Buchanan, Bratiano (the President of, the Rumanian Council), who has just arrived in Petrograd to confer with the Provisional Government, Prince Scipio. Borghese, Count Nani Mocenigo, and others.

For the first time Miliukov seemed to me shaken in his brave optimism and his confidence and pugnacity. In conversation he affects more or less his old assurance; but the dull tones of his voice and his haggard look reveal only too clearly the gnawing anxiety within. We were all struck by it.

After luncheon Bratiano remarked to me in a woebegone tone:

"We shall lose Miliukov before long... . It will be Gutchkov's turn next, then Prince Lvov, then Shingarev... After that the Russian revolution will sink into anarchy, and we Rumanians will be lost!"

Tears stood in his eyes; but he suddenly flung up his head and recovered himself.

Nor did Carlotti or Prince Borghese conceal their anxiety. The paralysis which has overtaken the Russian army must necessarily release a large number of Austrian and German divisions. Will not those divisions be transferred to the Trentino or the Isonzo to resume the terrible offensive of last May, and in even greater force?

Countess Adam Lamoyska, who arrived here from Kiev yesterday, tells me that she dare not return to her family place at Petchara, in Podolia, which has been her refuge since the invasion of Poland; a dangerous agitation is on foot among the peasants.

"Hitherto," she told me, "they have all been faithful and attached to my mother, who has certainly done everything she could for them. But since the revolution everything has changed. We see them standing about at the castle gate or in the park, pretending to divide up our lands in dumb show. One of them will affect to want the wood by the river; another puts in for the gardens and proposes to turn them into folds. They go on talking like that for hours and do not stop even when my mother, one of my. sisters or myself go up to them."

The same attitude is observable in all the provinces, so it is clear that Lenin's propaganda among the peasants is beginning to bear fruit.

In the eyes of the moujiks that great reform of 1861, the emancipation of the serfs, has always been regarded as a prelude to the general expropriation they have been obstinately expecting for centuries; their idea is that the partition of all land, the tcherny peredel, or "black partition," as they call it, is due to them by virtue of a natural, imprescriptible and primordial right. Lenin's apostles have an easy task in persuading them that the hour for this last act of justice is at length about to strike.

I have already said that the four representatives of French socialism, Albert Thomas, Lafont, Cachin and Montet, have had a university and classical. training, a fact which makes them peculiarly responsive to the influence of oratory and the magic of rhetoric and style. Hence Kerensky's curious ascendancy over them.

I must certainly admit that the Soviet's young tribune is extraordinarily eloquent. Even his least prepared speech is notable for its wealth of vocabulary, range of ideas, rhythm of phrasing, amplitude of period, the lyrical quality of its metaphors and the dazzling flow of words. And what amazing inflections of voice! What elasticity in his attitude and expression! He is successively haughty and familiar, playful and impetuous, domineering and soothing, cordial and sarcastic, bantering and inspired, lucid and mysterious, trivial and dithyrambic. He plays on all the strings and his genius has all forces and artifices at its command.

No idea of his eloquence can be gained by simply reading his speeches, for his physical personality is perhaps the most effective element of his power to fascinate the crowd. He must be heard in one of those popular meetings in which he harangues his audience nightly as Robespierre used to harangue the Jacobins. There is nothing more impressive than to see him appear on the platform with his pallid, fevered, hysterical and contorted countenance.

In his eyes is a look which is misty at one moment and in the next evasive, all but impenetrable between the half-closed lids, or piercing, challenging and flashing. The same contrasts can be observed in his voice, which is usually cavernous and raucous, with sudden explosions of marvellous stridence and sonority. And then from time to time a mysteriously prophetic or apocalyptic inspiration transfigures the orator and seems to radiate from him in magnetic waves. The fierce intensity of his features, the flow of words, alternately halting and torrential, the sudden vagaries of his train of thought, the somnambulistic deliberation of his gestures, the fixity of his gaze and his twitching lips and bristling hair make him look like a monomaniac or one possessed. At such times his audience shudders visibly. All interruptions cease; all opposition is brushed aside; individual wills melt into nothingness and the whole assembly communes together in a sort of hypnotic trance.

But what is there behind this theatrical grandiloquence and these platform and stage triumphs? Nothing but Utopian fantasies, low comedy and self-infatuation.

I have paid a farewell visit to the Grand Duke Nicholas Michailovich.

Not much left of the splendid optimism he affected at the dawn of the new order. He made no attempt to conceal his grief and anxiety. But he still cherishes a hope for some improvement in the near future, which he thinks would be followed by a general recovery and definite revival. See more

To my telegram of the 3rd May, Ribot has replied by asking Albert Thomas and myself to give him our respective opinions.

"Draw up your argument," Albert Thomas said to me; I'll then draw up mine and we'll send them as they are to the Government."

These are my views See more

I have had a talk with the great metallurgist and financier, Pertilov; we exchanged gloomy forecasts of the inevitable consequences of present events.

"A Russian revolution," I said, "can only be disruptive and destructive. because the first effect of a revolution is to liberate popular instincts, and the instincts of the Russian people are essentially anarchic. Never before have I so well understood the prayer wrung out of Pushkin by Pugatchev's adventure: May God spare us the sight of another Russian revolution, a thing of horror and absurdity!" See more

The city now wears its wonted appearance.

But, judging from the arrogant tone of the extremist press, the Government's victory is a precarious one . the days of Miliukov, Gutchkov and Prince Lvov are numbered

About ten o'clock this morning Albert Thomas came to the Embassy as usual: I immediately told him of yesterday's telegram.

He flew into a rage. Striding up and down, he treated me to a torrent of reproach and invective.

But the storm was too violent to last.

After a moment's silence, he crossed the room twice, frowning fiercely' his arms folded and his lips moving as if he were talking to himself. Then his face cleared up, and in a calmer tone he asked:

"What is your objection to my policy?"

"I don't find any difficulty in answering you," I said.

"Yours is a mind formed in the socialistic and revolutionary school; you are also very emotional and possess oratorical imagination. You have arrived here in highly inflammable, stirring and intoxicating surroundings and you've been captured by your milieu."

"Can't you see I'm always keeping a tight hold on myself?"

"Yes, but there are times when you let yourself go. The other night, at the Michael Theatre, for instance. . . ."

Our talk continued in the same strain, incidentally leaving us both exactly where we were before.


Stormy yesterday was unquestionably a triumph for the Government over the Soviet. I have had confirmation of the report that the Tsarskoïe-Selo garrison had threatened to march on Petrograd.

During this afternoon there have been renewed demonstrations.

Whilst I was having tea with Madame P----- on the Moïka about five o'clock, we heard a great din coming from the Nevsky Prospekt, followed by the sound of rifle fire. Fighting was in progress before Our Lady of Kazan.

As I was returning to the Embassy I passed some armed bands of Leninists who were yelling: "Long live the Internationale! Down with Miliukov! Down with the war!"

Bloody collisions continued in the evening.

But the Soviet has taken fright, as it did yesterday. It is afraid of finding itself thrust on one side and supplanted by Lenin. It is also afraid that the Tsarskoïe-Selo troops will march on the city; so it has hastily issued posters with an appeal for restraint and order, "to save the revolution from the catastrophe with which it is threatened."

By midnight peace had been restored.

Yielding to the pressure of the Soviet, Kerensky and, unfortunately, Albert Thomas too, Miliukov has bowed to the necessity of informing the Allied Governments of the manifesto issued on the 9th April to enlighten the Russian nation about the views of the Government of free Russia on the subject of war aims, a manifesto which can be summarized in the famous expression: "No annexations, no indemnities." But he has added an explanatory note which, couched in intentionally vague and diffuse terms, does what is possible to counteract the arguments of the manifesto. See more

Age: 58
Lives in: Petrograd, Russian Empire
Occupation: French Ambassador to the Russian Court