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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

If, as my critics would have people believe, I really was responsible for th^ revolution, I can only say that my services were very ill-requited, for only a couple of months after its consummation I was categorically disavowed by the official organ of the Council of Work- men's and Soldiers' Delegates. In an article published on May 26, 1917, that journal stated: See more

After having been accused by Princess Paley of JjL having made the Embassy a fojjer de propagande revolutionnaire, it was really hard that I should, shortly after my conversation with the Socialist Ministers, have been attacked by the Bolsheviks on the charge of its being the centre of the counter- revolutionary movement. Tseretelli's name — and this, considering his antecedents, was rather surprising — was also coupled with mine, and we were represented as being the chief promoters of the aforesaid movement. See more

I received a telegram from Lord Robert Cecil, who was then in charge of the Foreign Ofl&ce, informing me that the War Cabinet were impressed with the necessity of creating a more favour- able attitude among Russian Socialists and workmen towards the war, and of rectifying the false impressions that were being circulated in Russia about our aims. Feeling that this could be done with better chance of success by a Labour leader than by anyone else, they had decided to send out Mr. Henderson on a special mission. See more

On May 21 I wrote as follows to the Foreign Office:

" The last two weeks have been very anxious ones, as the victory which the Government had won over the Soviet in the matter of the note to the Powers was not nearly sx) complete as Mihukoff had imagined. So long as the Soviet maintained its exclusive right to dispose of the troops, the Government, as Prince Lvoff remarked, .was * an authority without power,' while the Workmen's Council was ' a power without authority/ Under such conditions it was impossible for Guchkoff, as Minister of War, and for Korniloff, as military governor of Petrograd, to accept responsibility for the maintenance of discipline in the army. See more

One unfortunate result of the reconstruction of the Government was the cancelling of Sazonoff's appointment as Ambassador in London. Sazonoff was so identified with the policy of the Imperial Government, more especially as regarded the question of Constanti- nople, that he was no longer considered a suitable representative of the new Russia. In telling me this, Tereschenko explained that, as he hoped to retain his services for the final peace negotiations, he was anxious that Sazonoff should not undertake a mission that might sooner or later discredit him in the eyes of the Russian public. See more

The Government took a step in the right direction by announcing that the right to dispose of the troops was vested exclusively in the military governor of the town. On the same day the Foreign Office handed the Russian charge d'affaires in London our reply to Miliukoff's famous note that had been the cause of the recent crisis. We welcomed that note as showing that Russia would not relax her glorious efforts to defend, with her alhes, the cause of justice and humanity. See more

Since I last wrote we have passed through another crisis, provoked by Miliukoff's note to the Allied Governments on the subject of the war. That note was the result of a compromise between Kerensky's and Miliukoff's supporters. It was accepted and approved by the former in return for the consent of the latter to the communication to the Allies of the Government's proclamation disavowing all ideas of the acquisition of territory by force. Miliukoff has throughout contended that Russia must acquire possession both of Con- stantinople and the Straits, and for this reason, as well as out of regard for the engagements already entered into by Russia with the Allies, has persistently refused to suggest a revision of existing agreements. See more

I told Kerensky, who came to see me to-day, how discouraged I was by the attacks of the Press that kept on accusing us of waging a capitalist or im- perialistic war. Kerensky admitted that some of these attacks had gone too far, but contended that the Government could not violate the principle of freedom of the Press. The extreme left, he said, believed that the German Social Democrats w^re on the point of revolt, and though, after Scheidemann's recent declara- tion, he did not personally think this likely, the Germans might, nevertheless, make overtures of peace at any moment. The AlHes ought, therefore, to enter into an exchange of views so as to be in a position to state their terms when the time came. If only, be continued, they would make some gesture indicative of their readiness to follow the example set by Russia's renunciation of Constantinople, all these Press attacks would at once cease. On my remarking that Miliukoff had given me to understand that he jvas determined to keep Constantinople, Kerensky remarked that Miliukoff would not have the deciding voice in the matter.

Since writing the above I have had a conversa- tion with Tereschenko. In reply to a question of mine, he said that he did not share Miliukoff 's view that the result of the recent conflict between the council and the Government was a great victory for the latter. It had been a moral victory, and fortunately it was the opponents and not the supporters of the Government who were responsible for the bloodshed. It had also demonstrated the numerical superiority of those who had sided with the Government. Against this must be set off the vindication by the council of its exclusive right to give orders to the troops. The Government, he told me, .were taking steps to counteract this by increasing the powers of General Korniloff, who is in command of the Petrograd garrison, and he was con- fident that they would eventually become masters of the situation, though they might have to admit into their ranks one or two Socialists. The workmen were getting disgusted with Lenin, and the latter would, he hoped, be arrested at no distant date.

He was, he said, most anxious to see peace negotiations opened with Turkey, and, if Constanti- nople was the only bar to such a peace, he thought that His Majesty's Government might approach the Russian Government with a proposal for its neutraliza- tion. I said that were we to do so we should lay our- selves open to the charge of ill-faith, and under present conditions it would be difficult for either Russia or the Allies to propose a revision of their respective agree- ments. He admitted this, but contended that, with the exercise of a little tact, an exchange of views on the subject of Constantinople might be invited."

As you will have seen from my telegrams the situation here continues in much the same state of uncertainty as before and it is impossible to say what may happen from day to day. If one listens to Ministers one hears that all is going well and that the Government is gradually consolidating its position; while, if one takes the opinion of those who are in touch both with the Government and the Workmen’s Council, one gets exactly the opposite impression. A battle royal seems to be proceeding between Kerensky and Miliukoff on the famous formula ‘Pease without annexation’, and, as the majority of Ministers are, according to all accounts, on Kerensky’s side, I should not be surprised if Miliukoff has to go, as he remarked the other day that he would be a traitor were he to give in on the subject of Constantinople. He would be a loss in many ways as he represents the moderate element in the Cabinet and is sound on the subject of war; but he is not a strong man and has so little influence with his colleagues that one never knows whether he will be able to give effect to what he says. If he does go there is no saying who his successor will be, but I trust that it will in any case be someone who can speak with authority in the name of the Government.

The Government is still playing a waiting game and prefers that the initiative in dealing with Lenin should come from the people, rather than that they themselves should give the order for his arrest. They are probably right, as the feeling against Lenin is growing stronger both among the soldiers and the people, I should not indeed be surprised if things came to a crisis during the May Day celebrations tomorrow. If there is to be a row, and perhaps more street fighting, I would sooner that the crisis came at once so that we may get it over and that the country may be able to give more attention to the War. The military situation is no doubt very unsatisfactory; but there are, I think, signs of improvement and the Russians have such a happy knack of getting out of scrapes, that I personally do not take such a pessimistic view of it as some of our experts who judge it more particularly from the deplorable lack of discipline reported from certain points on the front. I am afraid, however, that the Army will not be able to take the offensive so soon as some of the Ministers had led me to believe. This is to be regretted, as the sooner the fighting begins the better it will be for the internal situation.

It is most difficult to express an opinion on the relative positions of the Provisional Government and the Council of Workmen and Soldiers’ Deputies. The latter is being completely reorganised. Its numbers have been reduced to 600 and a new Executive Committee has been appointed. The effect to this reorganisation will be to render it a more moderate, but at the same time, a stronger body. It is not therefore likely to renounce its claims to control and direct the policy of the Government, but if it is really animated by a greater spirit of moderation it may perhaps work more harmoniously that before with the Provisional Government. On the other hand, the possibility of a conflict between the two rival bodies cannot altogether be excluded. It seems that the former Extremist Members, who are not included in the reorganised Council, are going to set up a Committee of their own and I trust that, as I remarked to Miliukoff yesterday, this does not mean that there will be three instead of two rival Governments. I do not think that the Council is likely to press for an early peace; but it will probably give us a good deal of trouble as to the terms on which the Allies ought to accept peace and as to the interpretation to be placed on the word ‘annexation’. The chief danger that I foresee is the not improbable eventuality of Germany putting forward plausible conditions of peace, as such overtures might be seized on by the pacifists here and pressure be brought on the Government to induce the Allies to open peace negotiations.

"A battle royal is being fought between Kerensky and Miliukoff on the famous formula, ' Peace without annexations,' and as the majority of the Ministers are on Kerensky 's side, I should not be surprised if Miliukoff has to go. He would be a loss in many ways, as he represents the moderate element in the Cabinet and is quite sound on the subject of the war, but he has so little influence with his colleagues that one never knows whether he will be able to give effect to what he says. See more

On several points on the front the Gennan soldiers are fraternizing with the Russians, and trying to complete the work begun by the Socialists by urging them to kill their officers. But, disquieting as is the state of the army, I fear that, were we to take collec- tive action here and to threaten to stop the despatch of all war material unless the subversive propaganda is at once suppressed, we should only be playing into the hands of the SociaHsts, who would contend that Russia, being left without munitions by the AUies, had no choice but to make peace. See more

Tereschenko told me this morning that the Soviet has been so frightened by Lenin's anarchist speeches that they are becoming more amenable. I had some conversation with him about Con- stantinople. He had, he said, never been a partisan of its permanent occupation by Russia, as it would prove a white elephant and have to be held by a large garrison. He would like to see it made an open port, over which Russia should be given some controlling power. He told me that I was wrong in supposing that Prince Lvoff, like Miliukoff, favoured annexation, but added — to my surprise — ^that the present Govern- ment was in some respects quite as nationalist as the late Imperial Government. There were, he then said, other Turkish provinces, like Armenia and Kurdistan, which were of vital interest to Russia.

He evidently shares Kerensky's view that our agreements about Asia Minor ought to be considerably modified, and that the end and aim of all our arrangements about Asia Minor ought to be to bar all possibility of future German penetration. On my remarking that if Russia did not want Constantinople the sooner that she said so the better, he replied that it was not within the competence of the Provisional Government to abandon what Russia had been promised until they had ascertained the washes of the people on the subject.

Tereschenko is very intelligent and anxious to help us as regards the despatch of the wheat and timber promised. I am on the best of terms with him, and am gradually also making friends with Kerensky, who was at first rather suspicious of my real sentiments about the revolution. Unfortunately, he can talk but little French, but when he dined at the Embassy, Lock- hart (our consul-general at Moscow), who talks Russian fluently, acted as our interpreter, and we had a long and straight talk. He told me on leaving that our conversation would bear fruit. I was rather amused at his coming to dinner accompanied by his officier. d^ordonnance, whom I had not invited. It was a curious proceeding on the part of a SociaUst Minister who never wears anything but an ordinary workman's black jacket.

Среди вновь прибывших анархистов, на которых я обращал внимание в приведенном письме, был ЛенинЛидер партии большевиков, приехавший в запломбированном вагоне через Германию. Он появился публично в первый раз на собрании социал-демократической партии и был плохо принят. Он поселился без разрешения, но и без какой бы то ни было помехи со стороны правительства во дворце известной балерины КшесинскойБалерина, и когда мы ездили по вечерам на острова, то иногда видели его или одного из его последователей, произносящих речь с балкона перед толпой.

I yesterday went to see Prince Lvoff, whom I found in a very optimistic mood. On my calling his serious attention to the state of the army, he asked me the reasons for my pessimism. I told him that while Ministers were constantly assuring me that the army iwould now render us far greater services than it had under the Empire, our mihtary attaches, who had visited the Petrograd regiments and talked to officers returned from the front, took the contrary view. From what they told me I feared that, unless steps were at once taken to stop the visits of Socialist agitators to the front, the army would never be able to play an effective part in the war. I was also much preoccupied by the fact that the Government seemed powerless to shake off the control of the Committee of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies. Lvoff reassured me by declaring that the only two weak points on the front were Dvinsk and Riga. The army as a whole was sound, and any attempts made by agitators to sub- vert its discipline would meet with no success. The Government could count on the support of the army, and even the Petrograd garrison had, like the troops at the front, offered to suppress the Workmen's Council. This, he added, was an offer which the Government could not accept without exposing themselves to the charge of planning a counter- revolution.

I cannot share the optimism with which Prince Lvoff and his colleagues regard the situation. The revolution has put the machinery of government temporarily out of gear, and disorganization reigns in many of the administrative services. There is but little enthusiasm for the war, and the Socialist propaganda is being reinforced by the arrival of fresh Anarchists from abroad. I am only speaking of Petrograd, but Petrograd at present rules Russia and is likely to do so for some time to come.

Referring to the phrase, * Peace without annexa- tion,' in the resohition passed by the Workmen's Congress, Lvoff remarked that it was open to any interpretation which we hked to put on it, such as liberation from the enemy's yoke.

I had a long conversation with O' Grady and Thorne — our two Labour delegates — on Saturday. They made an excellent impression on me, and I hope that they may be able to do some good. The extreme Socialists, however, are not very amenable to foreign influence.

Among the recently arrived Anarchists to whom reference is made in the above letter was Lenin, who had travelled in a sealed carriage through Germany. He made his first public appearance at a meeting of the Social Democratic party, and was badly received. He installed himself, without permission and without the Government taking any steps to prevent him, in the palace of the well-known danseuse, Kchessinskaia, and as we drove to the islands in the afternoon we sometimes saw him or one of his followers addressing a crowd from the balcony.

What a transformation scene we have witnessed here since you left ! Though I was prepared for something unexpected happening, I never imagined that the Empire would crumble to pieces in a few days at the first breath of revolution...

The military outlook is most discouraging, and I, personally, have abandoned all hope of a successful Russian offensive in the spring. Nor do I take an optimistic view of the immediate future of this country. Russia is not ripe for a purely democratic form of government, and for the next few years we shall prob- ably see a series of revolutions and counter-revolutions, as in the ' troublous times ' nearly five hundred years ago. As an old literary lady wrote me the other day, ' Russia is like a Slav woman who loves the man in whom she finds a master and who, in the words of an old peasant song, asks her husband if he does not love her any more when he no longer beats her out of jealousy.' The Emperor was too weak to be respected as a master, while he was blind to the fact that the time for concessions had come. A vast Empire like this, with all its different races, will not long hold together under a Republic. Disintegration will, in my opinion, sooner or later set in, even under a federal system. The Russian people are very religious, but their religion is one of symbols and ceremonies, and in their political life they look for symbols also. They must have as chief of the State some figurehead whom they can look up to the feelings of reverence as the personification of their national ideals.

The Socialistic propaganda in the army continues, and though I miss no opportunity of impressing on Ministers the disastrous consequences of this subversion of discipline, they appear to be powerless to prevent it. Not only are the relations of officers and men most unsatisfactory, but numbers of the latter are returning home without leave. In some cases they have been prompted to do so by reports of an approach- ing division of the land and by the desire to be on the spot to secure their share of the spoils. I do not wish to be pessimistic, but unless matters improve we shall probably hear of some serious disaster as soon as the Germans decide to take the offensive. See more

It is difficult to say how many lives were lost in the "bloodless" revolution, but according to most accounts they were under a thousand. It was at Viborg and Cronstadt where the worst scenes were enacted. In both these places a number of officers of the army and of the fleet were either subjected to the most brutal treatment or massacred by the insurgents. See more

Nothing has yet been decided about the Emperor’s journey to England. He is living with the Empress and his children at Tsarskoe under a strong guard, and is allowed to walk in the park but is always under observation. From a private and confidential source I heard he is perfectly happy and takes exercise by clearing the paths in the park of snow. He does not yet realise that he will not be allowed to go as he had hoped to Livadia, but the loss of his throne does not seem to have depressed him. The Empress, on the other hand, is said to feel the humiliation of her present position deeply. She is, I hear, averse to the idea of going to England. Some telegrams have just been published in the Press, which were sent by her to the Emperor before and after Rasputin’s murder, which show clearly that he did everything she told him to. There was also published a hysterical letter from the Empress to Rasputin, in which she wrote as if she were addressing a saint, saying that she only found comfort when leaning on his shoulder, and praying him to bless ‘thy child’. She has been the Emperor’s evil genius even since they married, and nobody pities her…

"There has been a cleavage in the Soviet, and the Socialist-pacifist elements are losing ground. The troops as a whole are said to be in favour of continuing the war, and even the Socialists declare that they will only fraternize with the German Socialists if the latter dethrone the Hohenzollerns. Work is being resumed in the factories, but, owing to many engineers and fore- men having been dismissed, the output is much less than it was. The most striking feature of the situation is the perfect order that reigns in the town. It is only in the trams and in the railway trains, where the soldiers force their way into the best seats without pay- ing for them, that there is any real disorder. In certain country districts, however, the peasants have been cut- ting down the woods of the landed proprietors and are talking of dividing up their lands. But, so far as I am aware, there has been no incendiarism nor anything in the shape of an organized Jacquerie."

Age: 62
Occupation: diplomat
Job: ambassador of the United Kingdom to Russia


in Petrograd
in Moscow