The most dangerous germ involved in the revolution has been developing during the last few days with the most alarming rapidity.
Finland. Livonia, Esthonia, Poland, Lithuania, the Ukraine, Georgia and Siberia, are demanding their independence, or, failing that, complete autonomy.
That Russia is doomed to federalism is highly probable.
She is predestined to that development by the enormous size of her territories, the diversity of her races and the increasing complexity of her interests. But the present movement is separatist much more than particularist; secessionist rather than federalist; it tends to nothing less than national disintegration. So the Soviet gives it its full blessing. As if the visionaries and lunatics of the Tauride Palace would not be tempted to destroy in a few weeks the historic work of ten centuries 1
The French Revolution began by proclaiming the Republic one and indivisible. Tothat principle it sacrificed thousands of heads, and French unity was saved. The Russian revolution has taken for its motto Russia dissolved and dismembered.
Since the wreck of tsarism. all the metropolitans, archbishops, archimandrites, abbots, archpriests. and hieromonachs of whom Rasputin had formed his ecclesiastical clientèle have been having a very uncomfortable time. They have everywhere seen not only the revolutionary gang but their own flocks, and often enough even their subordinates, rise up against them. Most of them have resigned their offices, more or less spontaneously: many are in flight or in prison.
There is a fresh manifesto from the Soviet, addressed this time "to the peoples of the universe." It is a long rigmarole of emphatic statements, one long messianic dithyramb:
We, the workmen and soldiers of Russia, announce to you the great event of the Russian revolution, and we send you greetings of fire. . . Our victory is a great victory of universal freedom and democracy. . . . And we address ourselves first to you, proletarian brothers of the Germanic coalition. Follow our example and shake off the yoke of your semi-autocratic power; refuse to be any longer an instrument of conquest in the hands of your kings, landlords, bankers, etc.
I await the reply of the Teutonic proletariat.
As early as the 14th March, i.e., even before the abdication of the Emperor and the formation of the Provisional Government, the Soviet issued under the form of a prikaz an Order of the Day to the army, inviting the troops to proceed at once to the election of representatives to the Council of Deputies and Soldiers. This prikaz further decreed that in each regiment a committee should be elected to seize and supervise the use of all arms, rifles, guns, machine guns, armoured cars, etc. . . .; in any case, the use of these arms was no longer to depend upon the will of the officers. The prikaz wound up by abolishing all outward signs of rank and prescribing that "any difference of opinion between officers and men" should henceforth be settled by the company committees. This fine document, which bore the signatures of Sokolov, Nachamkitz and Skobelev, was telegraphed the same evening to all the armies at the front. As a matter of fact, it would not have been possible to send it had not the mutineers seized the military telegraph offices at the very outset.
The moment Gutchkov was installed at the War Ministry, he tried to persuade the Soviet to withdraw the extraordinary prikaz which involved nothing less than the destruction of all discipline in the army.
After prolonged negotiations, the Soviet has consented to declare that for the time being the prikaz shall not apply to the fighting armies. But the moral effect of its publication still remains, and judging by the latest telegrams from General Alexeïev indiscipline is spreading to an alarming degree among the troops at the front.
How grievous to think that the Germans are only eighty kilometres from Paris
Alexander Nicolaïevitch Benois, the painter and historian of art and a friend of whom I see quite a good deal, has given me an unexpected call.
Descended from a French family which settled in Russia somewhere about 1820, he is the most cultivated man whom I know here. and one of the most distinguished. See more
I have spent many a delightful hour in his. Vassili-Ostrov studio, talking with him de omni re scibili et quibusdam aliis. Even from a political point of view, his conversation has often been valuable to me, as he is on terms of close friendship not only with the élite of the artists, men of letters and university professors but also with the chief leaders of the liberal opposition and the "Cadet" party. Many a time have I obtained from him interesting information about those circles the entrée to which was formerly very difficult,. and in fact almost closed to me. His personal opinions, which are always judicious and far-sighted, are all the more valuable in my eyes because he is eminently representative of that active and well-informed class of professors, savants, doctors, artists, men of letters and publicists which is styled the intelligentzia.
He came to see me about three o'clock, just as I was preparing to go out.
He looked grave and sat down with a weary sigh:
"Forgive me if I inconvenience you, but yesterday evening some of my friends and I were indulging in such gloomy reflections that I couldn't help coming to tell you about them."
Then he gave me a vivid and, alas, only too accurate picture of the effects of anarchy on the people, the prevailing apathy of the governing classes and the loss of discipline in the army. He ended with the observation:
"However painful such an admission must be to me, I feel I'm only doing my duty in coming to tell you that the war cannot go on. Peace must be made at the earliest possible moment. Of course, I realize that the honour of Russia is involved in her alliances, and you know me well enough to allow that I appreciate the full meaning of that aspect. But necessity is the law of history. No one is compelled to do the impossible!"
My answer was as follows:
"This is a very serious statement you are making. In disproving it I will adopt a strictly practical point of view---as any impartial and disinterested third party might do---and leave out of account the moral judgment France would have the right to pass on Russia. In the first place, you should know that, whatever. may happen, France and England will carry on the war to complete victory. Defection on the part of Russia would probably prolong the struggle, but would not change the result. However rapid the dissolution of your army might be, Germany would not dare to strip your front at once; she would also require a substantial force to secure further pledges on your territory. The twenty or thirty divisions she might be in a position to withdraw from the eastern front to reinforce her western front would not be sufficient to save her from defeat. Secondly, you may be quite sure that the moment Russia betrays her allies, they will repudiate her. Germany will thus have full license to seek compensation at your expense for the sacrifices imposed on her elsewhere. I certainly do not imagine that you are founding any hopes on the magnanimity of William II. . . . You will therefore lose-as a minimum---Courland, Lithuania, Poland, Galicia and Bessarabia, to say nothing of your prestige in the East and your designs on Constantinople. And don't forget that France and England have in hand some tremendous "pledges" for bargaining purposes with Germany: the mastery of the seas, the German colonies, Mesopotamia and Salonica. Your allies also have the power of the purse which is about to be doubled, if not tripled by the help of the United States. We shall thus be in a position to continue the war for as long as is necessary. So, whatever the difficulties that face you at the moment, summon up all your energy and think of nothing but the war. What is at stake is not only the honour of Russia but her prosperity, her greatness and possibly her national existence itself."
"There's no reply to you, alas! Yet we simply cannot continue the war! Honestly, we simply cannot!"
And with those words he left me, the tears standing in his eyes. I have met with the same pessimism on all sides during the last few days.
I had recently been thinking of giving a luncheon to the Provisional Government, with an idea of getting into more personal touch with its members and giving public proof of our approval.
But before issuing my invitations I thought it prudent to have some of the ministers discreetly sounded on the subject. How thankful I am that I did! See more
P-----, who was commissioned to do the reconnoitring, told me to-day that ministers were much touched by my kindly intentions but they feared they might be misinterpreted in extremist quarters and begged me to leave the matter over for the present.
This detail will suffice to show how timid the Provisional Government is in dealing with the Soviet and how reluctant to commit itself in favour of the Alliance and the war!
I must add that to the glowing and patriotic appeal which the French socialists addressed to their Russian comrades on the 18th March, Kerensky has just replied with a telegram which I hope will cure the "French democracy " of any illusion whatever as to the "Russian democracy's" ideas on the subject of the Alliance and the war.(1)
The Provisional Government have informed the Soviet that, with the approval of Buchanan, they have not given the Emperor the telegram in which King George offers the imperial family the hospitality of British territory.
But the executive committee of the Soviet still has its doubts and has posted "revolutionary" guards at Tsarskoïe-Selo and on the roads leading from it, to prevent any surreptitious abduction of the sovereigns.
The Soviet has heard that the King of England is offering the Emperor and Empress the hospitality of British territory. At the bidding of the "Maximalists" the Provisional Government has had to pledge its word to keep the fallen sovereigns in Russia. The Soviet has gone further and appointed a commissary to "supervise the detention of the imperial family." See more
Yesterday evening, the Central Committee of the Soviet adopted the following motions:
1. Negotiations with the working-men of the enemy countries to be opened at once;
2. "Systematic fraternization" between Russian and enemy soldiers at the front;
3. Democratization of the army
4. All schemes of conquest to be abandoned.
What a fine time we are in for!
At six o'clock I went to the Marie Palace with my colleagues Buchanan and Carlotti to go through the official recognition of the Provisional Government.
The appearance of the beautiful building which was once presented by Nicholas I to his favourite daughter, the Duchess of Leuchtenburg, and subsequently became the seat of the Council of Empire, has already changed. In the vestibule, where the lackeys, resplendent in their Court livery, used to lounge, unkempt, unwashed soldiers were sprawling over the seats, smoking with an insolent leer. The great marble stair-cases have never been swept since the revolution. Here and there a broken window or the mark of a bullet on a panel showed that there had been hot work on Saint Isaac Square.
No one was there to receive us, though what we were about to do was an act of state.
Then and there I could not help thinking of a ceremony "in the august presence of His Majesty the Emperor." How perfect the arrangements! What pomp and pageantry! What a turn-out of the official hierarchy! If Baron Korff, Grand Master of the Ceremonies, or his acolytes, Tolstoy, Evreïnov and Kurakin, could have seen us at that moment, they would have fainted with shame.
Miliukov came forward; he took us to a room, then another, then a third, not knowing where to stop and groping, for the switch to turn on the light.
"Here we are at last. . . I think this will suit us all right."
He went off to find his colleagues, who came at once. They were all in working dress, carrying their portfolios under their arms.
Following Buchanan and Carlotti, who are senior to me, I made the sacramental declaration:
"I have the honour to tell you, gentlemen, that the Government of the French Republic recognizes in you the Provisional Government of Russia."
I then followed the example of my English and Italian colleagues by addressing a few heartfelt words to the new ministers; I emphasized the necessity of continuing the war to the bitter end.
Miliukov replied with a most reassuring declaration.
His speech was long enough to give me an opportunity of studying these improvised masters of Russia on whose shoulders rests such a terrible burden of responsibility. Patriotism, intelligence and honesty could be read on every face; but they seemed utterly worn out with physical fatigue and anxiety. The task they have undertaken is patently beyond their powers. Heaven grant that they do not collapse under it too soon! One alone among them appeared to be a man of action---the Minister of Justice, Kerensky. He is thirty-five, thin, of medium height, clean shaven; with his bristling hair, waxen complexion and half-closed eyes (through which he darted sharp and uneasy glances) he struck me all the more because he kept apart, standing behind all his colleagues. He is obviously the most original figure of the Provisional Government and seems bound to become its main spring.
One of the most characteristic features of the revolution which has just overthrown tsarism is the immediate and total void created around the threatened sovereigns.
The moment collisions with the mob took place, all the regiments of the Guard, including the magnificent Cossacks of the Escort, betrayed their oath of fealty. Nor has a single Grand Duke risen to defend the sacred person of the monarchs: one of them actually placed his unit at the service of the rebels even before the Emperor's abdication. In fact, with a few exceptions which are all the more creditable, there has been wholesale desertion on the part of the court crowd and all those pridvorny, high officers and dignitaries who, amidst the pomp and pageantry of ceremonies and processions, seemed to be the natural guardians of the throne and the appointed defenders of imperial majesty. Yet many of them were under not only a moral but a military obligation of the strictest sort to rally round their threatened sovereigns at once, devote their lives to their safety and at least to stand by them in their hour of adversity.
This was all brought home to me again when I was dining privately with Madame R----- this evening. By birth or employment all the guests, a dozen or so, held high positions under the vanished regime.
At table the conversations à deux very quickly petered out and a general discussion on the subject of Nicholas II began. In spite of his present misery and the terrifying prospects of his immediate future, the company passed the severest judgments upon all the acts of his reign; he was overwhelmed with a torrent of reproach, for old and recent grievances. And when I expressed regret at seeing him so speedily abandoned by his family, guard and court, Madame R----- fired up:
"But it's he who has abandoned us! He has betrayed us; he has failed in all his obligations, and he alone has made it impossible for us to defend him! Neither his family, nor his guard nor his court has failed him: it is he who has failed all his people!"
The French émigrés talked in exactly the same strain in 1791; they too considered that Louis XVI, having betrayed the royal cause, had only himself to blame for his misfortunes. His arrest, after the flight to Varennes, affected them hardly at all. To one of the exceptions, who was much upset by the occurrence, a Brussels inn keeper made the following remark:
"Don't worry, Sir; this arrest is not such a great misfortune after all. Monsieur le Comte d'Artois certainly looked rather unhappy this morning, but the other gentlemen in his carriage seemed quite pleased."
This morning Buchanan has announced that King George, with the advice and approval of his ministers, offers the Emperor and Empress the hospitality of British territory; but he refuses to guarantee their safety and confines himself to a hope that they will remain in England until the end of the war.
Miliukov is obviously greatly touched by this announcement, but he added sadly:
"But I fear it comes too late!"
It is certainly true that from day to day---I could almost say from hour to hour---the tyranny of the Soviet, the despotism of the extreme parties and the domination of Utopians and anarchists are becoming increasingly evident.
And so., as the latest press telegrams show me that people in Paris are cherishing curious illusions about the Russian revolution, I have telegraphed to Ribot in the following terms:
Notwithstanding the importance of all that has happened in the last twelve days, it is my opinion that the events we are witnessing are only a prelude. The forces which are destined to be the determining factor in the final result of the revolution (I mean the rural masses, the priests, the Jews, the subject nationalities, the bankruptcy of the State, the economic débâcle, etc.), have not even entered the field. So at the moment it is impossible to give any logical and practical forecast of the future of Russia. The best proof of this lies in the hopelessly contradictory prophecies offered me by people in whose judgment and open-mindedness I have the greatest confidence. Some regard the proclamation of a republic as a certainty. Others think the restoration of the Empire, under constitutional forms, is inevitable.
But if your Excellency will be good enough to rest content for the time being with my impressions, which are wholly dominated by the thought of the war, I see the course of events in the following light:
1. When will the forces to which I have just referred begin to make themselves felt?---Hitherto, the Russian nation has attacked the dynasty and the administrative caste, nothing else. We shall now be faced with economic, social, religious and ethnical problems. These problems are very formidable, from the point of view of the war; for the Slav imagination, far from being constructive like that of the Latin or Anglo-Saxon, is essentially anarchical and dispersive. Until these problems are solved the public mind will be wholly taken up with them. Yet we cannot want the solution to be precipitate, for it cannot be realized without severe upheavals. We must therefore expect that for a considerable time to come Russia's effort will be weakened and uncertain.
2. Is the Russian nation determined to continue the war to final victory? Russia implies so many different races, and ethnical antagonisms are so acute in certain regions, that the national idea is far from being universal. The conflict of social classes has a similar effect on patriotism. The working masses, the Jews and the inhabitants of the Baltic provinces, for instance, merely regard the war as senseless butchery. On the other hand,, the fighting armies and the genuinely Russian populations have in no way abandoned their hope of m victory and their determination to achieve it. If I wanted to express my idea somewhat extravagantly to make it more intelligible, I should be tempted to say that "In the present phase of the revolution Russia cannot make peace or war."
In yesterday's Petrograd Gazette the Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovitch has had a long interview published in which he attacks the fallen sovereigns:
I have often wondered, he says, whether the ex-Empress were not in league with William II; but each time I have forced myself to dismiss so horrible a suspicion.
Who can tell whether this treacherous insinuation will not before long provide the foundation for a terrible charge against the unfortunate Tsarina? The Grand Duke Cyril should know or be reminded that the most infamous calumnies which Marie Antoinette had to meet when she faced the Revolutionary Tribunal first took wing at the elegant suppers of the Comte d'Artois.
About five o'clock I went to call on Sazonov at the Hôtel de l'Europe where he has been suffering from a stubborn attack of bronchitis for the last three weeks. I found him in a very melancholy frame of mind, though not despairing. As I expected, he sees the hand of Providence in the present misfortunes of Russia:
"We deserved chastisement. I did not think it would be so severe . . . But God cannot mean Russia to perish . . . . A purified Russia will emerge from this trial."
Then he spoke in strong terms of the conduct of the Emperor:
"I needn't tell you of my love for the Emperor, and with what devotion I have served him. But as long as I live I shall never forgive him for abdicating for his son. He had no shadow of right to do so! . . . Is there a body of law in the world which allows the rights of a minor to be abandoned? And what's to be said when those rights are the most sacred and august on earth? Fancy destroying a three-hundred-year-old dynasty and the stupendous work of Peter the Great , Catherine II and Alexander I! What a tragedy! What a disaster!"
His eyes were full of tears.
I asked him if his health would allow him to leave for London in the near future as I had no doubt that he would consider it his duty to take up his ambassadorial post.
"I'm horribly perplexed," he said. "What line of policy can I follow in London? I shall certainly not refuse my help to honest men like Lvov and Miliukov. But will they stay in power? . . . In any case, my doctor doesn't think I shall be fit to travel for at least three weeks."
I was certainly struck by his deathly pallor, his haggard features and all the signs of physical and mental suffering he betrayed.
Last night Rasputin's coffin was secretly exhumed from its resting-place in the chapel at Tsarskoïe-Selo and taken away to the Forest of Pargolovo, fifteen versts north of Petrograd.
In the midst of a clearing there, a number of soldiers, commanded by an engineer officer, had piled up a large quantity of pine logs. After forcing off the coffin lid they drew the corpse out with sticks; 'they dare not touch it with their hands, owing to its putrefying condition, and they hoisted it, not without difficulty, on to the heap of logs. Then they drenched it in petrol and set it on fire. The process of cremation lasted until dawn, more than six hours.
In spite of the icy wind, the appalling length of the operation and the clouds of pungent and fetid smoke which rose from the pyre, several hundred moujiks crowded round the fire all night; silent and motionless, they gazed in horror-stricken stupor at the sacrilegious holocaust which was slowly devouring the martyred staretz, friend of the Tsar and Tsarina, the Bojy tchelloviek, "Man of God."
When the flames had done their work, the soldiers collected the ashes of the corpse and buried them under the snow.
The authors of this gruesome epilogue were anticipated by Italy in the Middle Ages; the human imagination cannot go on indefinitely renewing the forms in which its passions and visions find expression.
In the year 1266 Manfred (bastard of the Emperor Frederick II, usurper-King of the Two Sicilies) murderer, perjurer, simoniac, heretic, with every crime on his soul and excommunicated by the Church, perished while warring with Charles of Anjou on the banks of the Calore, near Beneventum.
His captains and soldiers, who worshipped him for his youth, beauty, open-heartedness and charm, buried him with touching affection on the very spot where he fell.
But a year later, Pope Clement IV decreed that the pontifical process of execration and excommunication should be continued against a monster unworthy to rest in consecrated ground. On his orders,, the Archbishop of Cosenza had the body exhumed and over the unrecognizable remains pronounced the pitiless sentences which consign the outcast to Hell: In ignem æturnum judicamus. . . . The ceremony took place at night, by the light of torches which were extinguished one by one until darkness was complete, when what was left of Manfred was cut in pieces and scattered far and wide.
This tragic and picturesque scene deeply moved contemporary Italy and in fact gave Dante the inspiration for one of the finest passages in the Divina Commedia. Ascending the steep mountain of. Purgatory, the poet sees the phantom of the young prince approaching him. It calls to him and says: "I am Manfred. My sins were horrible. But the infinite goodness of God has arms long enough to clasp all who turn towards it. If the spiritual father of Cosenza who was sent by Clement to scatter my bones had seen God's face of pity, my bones would be still at the end of the bridge near Beneventum, guarded by a heavy stone. And now the rains soak them and the winds play with them on the banks of the river where the Archbishop and his priests had them tossed after the torches were extinguished. But their denunciations make no man so lost that the divine love cannot restore him, so long as hope retains a single green branch within him."
I should like to offer that quotation to the poor captive Tsarina.
The Emperor reached Tsarskoïe-Selo this morning.
His arrest at Mohilev produced no incident; his farewell to the officers about him (many of whom shed tears) was disconcertingly banal in its simplicity. But the Order of the Day in which he takes leave of the army has a certain ring of nobility about it:
I address you for the last time, you soldiers who are so dear to my heart. Since I renounced the throne of Russia for myself and my son, power has been transferred to the Provisional Government which has been set up on the initiative of the Imperial Duma.
May God help that Government to lead Russia to glory and prosperity! And may God also help you, my brave soldiers, to defend your country against a cruel foe! For more than two years and a half you have continuously borne the hardships of an arduous service; much blood has been spilt, enormous efforts have been made and already the hour is at hand in which Russia and her glorious allies will break down the enemy's last desperate resistance in one mighty common effort.
This unprecedented war must be carried through to final victory. He who thinks of peace at the present moment is a traitor to Russia.
I am firmly convinced that the boundless love you bear our beautiful Fatherland is not dead in your hearts. May God bless you and Saint George, the great martyr, lead you to victory!
Returning from a visit to the Admiralty Canal I came through Glinka Street where the Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovitch lives. I saw something waving over his palace---a red flag!
During the last few days a rumour has spread among the mob that "Citizen Romanov" and his wife, "Alexandra the German," are working secretly for a restoration of autocracy, with the connivance of the "moderate" ministers, Lvov, Miliukov, Gutchkov, etc. The Soviet accordingly demanded the immediate arrest of the sovereigns yesterday evening. The Provisional Government yielded to its desires. The same evening four deputies of the Duma, Bublikov, Gribunin, Kalinin and Verschinin, left for G.H.Q. at Mohilev, with instructions to bring the Emperor back with them. See more
As regards the Empress, General Kornilov went to Tsarskoïe-Selo this morning with an escort. On his arrival at the Alexander Palace he was immediately received by the Tsarina who heard the decision of the Provisional Government without remark; all she asked was that she should be left all the servants who are looking after her invalid children---a request which has been granted. The Alexander Palace is now cut off from all communication with outside.
Miliukov is very much upset over the arrest of the Emperor and Empress; he wants the King of England to offer them the hospitality of British territory and even to guarantee their safety; he has therefore begged. Buchanan to wire to London at once and insist on having an answer without a moment's delay.
"It's the last chance of securing these poor unfortunates freedom, and perhaps of saving their lives!" he told us.
Buchanan returned at once to the Embassy to convey Miliukov's suggestion to his Government.
As I was walking along the Millionaïa this afternoon, I saw the Grand Duke Nicholas Michaïlovitch. In civilian dress---the get-up of an old tchinoonik---he was prowling round his palace. He has openly sided with the revolution and is full of optimistic talk. I know him well enough to have no doubt that he is sincere when he says that the collapse of autocracy will now mean the salvation and greatness of Russia; but I do not know whether he will keep his illusions for long and hope he will not lose them as Philippe-Egalité lost his. In any case he has honestly done his best to open the Emperor's eyes to the approaching catastrophe, he actually had the courage some time back to send him the following letter, which was shown to me this morning:
You have often mentioned your determination to continue the war to victory! But do you really think victory is possible in the present state of affairs?
Do you know the situation within the Empire? Are you told the truth? Has anyone pointed out where the root of the evil lies?
You have frequently told me that men were always deceiving you and that the only thing you believed in was the views of your wife. I tell you that the words she utters are the result of clever intrigues and not in accordance with the truth. If you are impotent to rid her of those influences, the least you can do is to be always on your guard against the schemers who use her as their tool. Clear these dark forces out, and you will immediately recover the confidence of your people which you have already half lost.
I have hesitated long before telling you the truth, but I have made up my mind to do so, with encouragement from your mother and two sisters. You are about to witness fresh disturbances, nay, an attempt on your life.
I speak as I do in the interests of your own safety and that of your throne and country.
The Provisional Government's manifesto was published this morning. It is a long, verbose and strongly-worded document which fiercely castigates the ancien regime and promises the nation all the benefits of equality and liberty. The war is barely mentioned: The Provisional Government will loyally maintain all its alliances and do everything in its power to provide the army with all its needs with a view to carrying on the war to a victorious conclusion. Nothing more!
I went straight to Miliukov this is exactly what I said:
"After my recent talks with you I was not surprised at the language adopted by the manifesto published this morning on the subject of the war; but it doesn't make me any less angry. A determination to prosecute the war at any cost and until full and final victory isn't even mentioned! The name of Germany does not occur! There isn't the slightest allusion to Prussian militarism: No reference whatever to our war aims! France too has had her revolutions with the enemy at the gates; but Danton in 1792 and Gambetta in 1870 used very different language . . . And yet in those days France had no ally who was in deadly peril on her behalf."
Miliukov looked very pale and abashed as he heard me out. Choosing his words carefully, he argued that the manifesto was intended specifically for the Russian nation and, anyhow, political eloquence to-day employs a more temperate vocabulary than in 1792 and 1870.
I then read him the appeal which our socialists, Guesde, Sembat and Albert Thomas, have just made---at my suggestion---to the socialists of Russia, and I had no difficulty in bringing home to him the warmth of tone, fierce resolution and determination to conquer which inspires every line of this appeal.(1)
Miliukov, who seemed painfully moved to the very depths, did his best in urging extenuating circumstances, the difficulties of the internal situation, and so forth. He, wound up with:
"Give me time!"
"Time has never been more precious! Swift action has never been so necessary! Please don't think it isn't very painful for me to talk to you like this. But the moment is far too serious for us to treat each other to diplomatic euphemisms. The question with which we are faced---or perhaps I should say the question that forces itself upon us is this: yes or no, will Russia go on fighting at the side of her Allies until full and final victory, without faltering and without ulterior motives? Your ability and your patriotic and honourable past are my guarantee that you will soon give me the answer I expect."
Miliukov promised to take an early opportunity to set our minds entirely at rest.
This afternoon I went for a walk round the centre of the city and Vassili-Ostrov. Order has been almost restored. There are fewer drunken soldiers, yelling mobs and armoured cars laden with evil-looking maniacs. But I found "meetings" in progress everywhere, held in the open air, or perhaps I should say open gale. The groups were small: twenty or thirty people at the outside, and comprising soldiers, peasants, working-men and students. One of the company mounts a stone, or a bench, or a heap of snow and talks his head off, gesticulating wildly. The audience gazes fixedly at the orator and listens in a kind of rapt absorption. As soon as he stops another takes his place and immediately gets the same fervent, silent and concentrated attention.
What an artless and affecting sight it is when one remembers that the Russian nation has been waiting centuries for the right of speech!
On my way home I dropped in on Princess R----- on the Serguievskaïa for tea.
The beautiful Madame D-----, the "Houdon Diana " or Tauride Diana," was there in a tailor-made and skunk toque, smoking cigarettes with the lady of the house. Prince B-----, General S----- and a number of familiars came in one after the other. The stories told and impressions exchanged revealed the darkest pessimism.
But there was one anxiety greater than all the others, a haunting fear in every mind---the partition of the land.
"We shall not get out of it this time! What will become of us without our rent-rolls?"
To the Russian nobility, the rent-roll is of course the main, and often the only, source of income.
The company's forebodings comprised not only legal partition of the land, i.e. formal expropriation, but confiscation by the high hand, wholesale looting and jacquerie. I am certain that the same sort of conversation can be heard in every corner of Russia at the present time.
A fresh caller, a lieutenant in the Chevaliers-Gardes, entered the room, wearing the red favour on his tunic. He soothed the company's anxieties a little by telling them (supporting his argument with figures) that the agrarian question is not as terrifying as it seems at first sight.
"There's no need to have immediate recourse to our estates to take the edge off the peasants' hunger," he said. " With the crown lands, perhaps ninety-four million desiatins, (2) thechurch and monastic lands, let's say three million desiatins, there's enough to keep the moujiks from gnawing-pains for quite a long time to come."
His entire audience agreed with this argument; everyone consoled himself or herself with the thought that obviously the Russian nobility will not suffer too severely if the Emperor, Empress, Grand Dukes, Grand Duchesses, the Church and the monasteries are ruthlessly robbed and plundered. As Rochefoucauld said, "We can always find strength to bear the misfortunes of others."
I may remark in passing that one person present possesses an estate of 300,000 hectares in Volhynia!
When I returned to the embassy, I heard that there had been a ministerial crisis in France and Briand's place is being taken by Ribot.
Nicholas Romanov, as the Emperor is now styled in official documents and the papers, has asked the Provisional Government for:
(1) A free pass from Mohilev to Tsarskoïe-Selo; (2) Permission to reside at the Alexander Palace until his children have recovered from the measles; (3) a free pass from Tsarskoïe-Selo to Port Romanov on the Murman coast. See more
The government has granted his requests.
Miliukov, who is my authority for this information, presumes that the Emperor intends to ask the King of England for a place of refuge.
"He should lose no time in getting away," I said. "Otherwise, the Soviet extremists might quote some awkward precedents against him."
Miliukov, who is rather of the Rousseau school and, being the soul of kindness himself only too prone to believe in the innate goodness of the human race, does not think that the lives of the sovereigns are in danger. If he wants to see them go it is mainly in order to spare them the sorrows of imprisonment and trial, which would greatly increase the difficulties of the Government. He lays great emphasis on the extraordinary restraint and forbearance displayed by the people during this revolution, the small number of victims, the way in which violence has been quickly followed by moderation, and so forth.
"That's all right," I said; " the mob has soon returned to its natural kindness of heart, because it is not in any great distress and is overwhelmed with the pleasant sensation of freedom. But if there is a famine violence will rage at once."
I quoted Roederer's highly expressive remark in 1792:
"Orators have only to appeal to hunger to conjure up cruelty."
As yet I know nothing of the effect the Russian revolution has had in France; but I am afraid of the illusions it may create there and it is only too easy for me to guess all the examples with which it is likely to present the socialist jargon-mongers. I have therefore thought it advisable to give my government a word of warning and I am cabling as follows to Briand:
When I said good-bye to M. Doumergue and General de Castelnau last month, I asked them to advise the President of the Republic and yourself of my increasing concern at the internal situation of the Empire; I added that it would be a serious mistake to think that time is working for us, at any rate in Russia; I came to the conclusion that we should expedite our military operations as much as possible.
I am more convinced of that than ever. A few days before the Revolution I advised you that the decisions of the recent conference were already a dead letter, that the confusion in the munitions production establishments and transport services was beginning again on an even more formidable scale, and so forth. The question is whether the new Government is capable of promptly carrying out the necessary reforms. It says, and quite sincerely, that it can but I don't believe a word of it. For it is not merely confusion, but wholesale disorganization and anarchy from which the military and civil departments are suffering.
Taking the most hopeful view I can, what can we expect? A terrible load would be off my mind if I could be certain that the fighting armies will not be contaminated by demagogic agitation and discipline soon restored among the garrisons behind the front. I have not yet abandoned that hope. I can still bring myself to think that the social-democrats will not translate their desire to end the war into irreparable acts. I can also admit the possibility of a revival of patriotic fervour in some parts of the country. But for all that there must be a weakening of the national effort which was only too anaemic and spasmodic already. And the process of recovery is likely to be a long one with a race whose ideas of method and forethought are so rudimentary.
After sending this cable, I went out to see some of the churches: I was curious to know how the faithful would behave at the Sunday mass now that the name of the Emperor has been deleted from public prayers. In the orthodox liturgy divine protection was continually being invoked for the Emperor, Empress, Tsarevitch, and all the imperial family, it was a kind of recurring chorus. By order of the Holy Synod, the prayer for the Sovereigns has been abolished and nothing has taken its place. The churches I visited were the Preobrajensky Cathedral, Saint Simeon and Saint Panteleimon. The same scene met me everywhere; a grave and silent congregation exchanging amazed and melancholy glances. Some of the moujiks looked bewildered and horrified and several had tears in their eyes. Yet even among those who seemed the most moved I could not find one who did not sport a red cockade or armband. They had all been working for the Revolution; all of them were with it, body and soul. But that did not prevent them from shedding tears for their little Father, the Tsar, Tsary batinshka!
Then I called at the Foreign Office.
Miliukov told me that yesterday evening he discussed with his colleagues the formula to be inserted in the coming manifesto of the Provisional Government on the subject of the prosecution of the war and the maintenance of the alliance; he added in a tone of embarrassment:
"I hope to secure the adoption of a form of words which will satisfy you."
"You mean to say you only hope? A hope's no good to me: I want a certainty."
"You may be certain I shall do everything in my power . . . . But you've no idea how difficult our socialists are to handle! And we've got to avoid a rupture with them at any cost. Otherwise, it means civil war!"
"Whatever reasons you may have for going slowly with the hotheads of the Soviet, you must realize that I cannot tolerate any doubt about your determination to continue the alliance and carry on the war."
"Please trust me!"
Miliukov struck me as less optimistic than he was yesterday. The news from Kronstadt, the Baltic Fleet and Sebastopol is bad. To crown all, disorder is spreading at the front; officers have been massacred.
This afternoon I went for a walk on the Islands, which are more deserted than ever and still snow-bound.
Thinking of my visit to the churches this morning, I mused on the strange inaction of the clergy during the revolution; it has taken no part; is never seen anywhere and has given absolutely no sign of life. This abstention and self-effacement are all the more surprising because there was not one celebration, ceremony or public occasion in which the Church did not occupy the foreground with the splendours of its rites, apparel and singing.
The matter is self-explanatory, and to put that explanation into words I have only to search the pages of this Diary. In the first place the Russian people are not as religious as they appear to be: they are primarily mystics. Their habit of continually crossing themselves, their genuflections, their taste for ritual and processions and craze for ikons and relics are simply an outlet for the demands of their lively imagination. Pierce but a little way into their minds and all one finds is a faith which is vague and hazy, sentimental and dreamy, almost destitute of intellectual and theological elements and always on the verge of sinking into sectarian anarchy. One must also bear in mind the confined and humiliating servitude tsarism has always imposed on the Church, a servitude which made the clergy a kind of spiritual police, to reinforce the military, police. Often enough, during the sumptuous services in the cathedrals of St. Alexander Nevsky or Kazan, I have called to mind Napoleon's remark that "an archbishop is simply a second Prefect of Police!" Nor must one forget the opprobrium brought on the Holy Synod and the episcopal hierarchy in the last few years by Rasputin. The Hermogenes, Varnava, Basily and Pitirim scandals, and many others, had greatly shocked all true believers. When the nation rose in revolt the clergy could do nothing but keep silence. But when the time for reaction arrives, perhaps the country priests, who have remained in touch with the rural masses, will make their voice heard again.
I was told yesterday that the form of the Emperor's abdication decree was settled by Nicholas Alexandrovitch Basily, formerly Deputy-Director of Sazonov's department and now in charge of the diplomatic section of General Headquarters; the decree is said to have been communicated by telegraph from Pskov to Mohilev on March 15, even before the delegates of the Duma, Gutchkov and Shulgin, had seen the Emperor. It is a point which would be interesting to clear up.
Curiously enough, late this afternoon I had a visit from Basily whom General Alexeïev has sent to the Provisional Government on some mission.
"Hallo!" I said: "I understand it's you who drafted the Emperor's abdication decree?"
He started,, and protested vigorously: "I absolutely deny the paternity of the document the Emperor signed. The draft I prepared on General Alexeïev's orders was very different."
What he told me was this:
"In the morning of the 14th March General Alexeïev received from President. Rodzianko, a telegram informing him that the machinery of government had ceased to function in Petrograd and the only means of averting anarchy was to secure the Emperor's abdication in favour of his son. The Chief of Staff of the Imperial Armies was thus faced with a dreadful problem. Would not the Tsar's abdication threaten the army with divisions, if not disruption? The only thing to do was to get all the military heads to agree at once on one course. General Russky, commanding the northern armies, had already pronounced strongly in favour of immediate abdication. General Alexeïev personally inclined to that view; but the matter was so serious that he thought it his duty to consult all the other Army Group commanders by telegraph, Generals Evert, Brussilov, and Sakharov and the Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaïevitch. They all replied that the Emperor should abdicate at the earliest possible moment."
"On which day did all these replies come into General Alexeïev?"
"During the morning of March 15th. It was then that General Alexeïev instructed me to report to him on the circumstances in which the fundamental status of the Empire authorized the Tsar to lay down his sceptre. I was not long in furnishing him with a memorandum explaining and proving that if the Emperor abdicated he was obliged to hand over his powers to his legitimate heir, the Tsarevitch Alexis. 'That's exactly what I thought,' the General said to me. 'Will you draft me a proclamation on those lines at once?' I soon produced a draft in which I expounded the theory of my memorandum to the best of my ability while endeavouring to keep the necessity of prosecuting the war to victory persistently in the foreground. The Chief of Staff had with him his principal colleague and loyal Quartermaster, General Lukomsky. I handed him my document. He read it aloud and agreed with every word. Lukomsky also approved of it. The document was immediately telegraphed to Pskov to be laid before the Emperor. A little before midnight on the same day, General Danilov, Quartermaster-General of the northern armies called his colleague at G.H.Q. to the tapemachine to tell him of His Majesty's decision. I happened at that moment to be in Lukorusky's room, with the Grand Duke Sergei Michailovitch. We all rushed to the telegraph office and the machine began to work before our eyes. I immediately recognized my draft on the tape as it came out.
. . . To all Our faithful subjects We make known. . . in these days of fierce conflict with the foreign foe, etc. But you can just imagine the amazement of all three of us when we observed that the name of the Grand Duke Michael had been substituted for that of the Tsarevitch Alexis! We looked at each other in blank consternation for the same idea entered all our heads. The immediate accession of the Tsarevitch was the only means of stopping the revolution in its career, or at any rate keeping it within the limits of a great constitutional reform. In the first place, the young Alexis Nicholaïevitch would have had the law on his side. He would also have benefited by the sympathetic feeling of the nation and army towards him. Lastly---and this was the vital point---the imperial office would not have been vacant even for a moment. If the Tsarevitch had been proclaimed, no one would have had the authority to make him abdicate. What has happened to the Grand Duke Michael would not have been possible in the case of this boy. There might have been some wrangling over the appointment of the regent, but that's all. Russia would have a national head . . . But where are we now?"
"I'm sorry to say that I fear events will prove you right before very long . . . When the Emperor deleted his son's name from the proclamation you drafted for him he launched Russia on a terrible adventure."
After discussing this topic for some considerable time, I asked Basily:
"Have you seen the Emperor since his abdication?"
"Yes. On the 16th March, when the Emperor was returning from Pskov to Mohilev, General Alexeïev sent me to tell him how the situation was developing. I met his train at Orcha and went straight to his coach. He was absolutely calm, but it shocked me to see him. with a haggard look and hollow eyes. After telling him of the latest happenings in Petrograd, I took the liberty of saying that we at the Stavka were greatly distressed because he had not transferred his crown to the Tsarevitch. He answered quietly: 'I cannot be separated from my son.' I learned afterwards from his escort that before the Emperor came to his decision he had consulted his physician Professor Feodorov: 'I order you to give me a frank answer,' he had said. 'Do you think it possible that Alexis can ever get better?' 'No, Your Majesty, his disease is incurable.' 'That's what the Empress thought long ago, though I myself still had hopes. As God has willed it thus I shall not separate myself from my poor boy!' A few minutes later dinner was served. It was a melancholy meal. All of us felt our hearts bursting; we couldn't cat or drink. Yet the Emperor retained wonderful self-control and asked me several questions about the men who form the Provisional Government; but as he was wearing a rather low collar I could see that he was continually choking down his emotion. I left him yesterday morning at Mohilev."
The weather is very dismal this morning. From dark and heavy clouds the snow is falling in dense flakes, and so slowly that I cannot even make out the granite wall which lines the icy bed of the Neva twenty paces from my windows. We might be in the very depths of winter. The gloom of the landscape and. the enmity of nature harmonize only too well with the sinister course events are taking.
One of those who were present gives me the following detailed account of the meeting at the conclusion of which the Grand Duke Michael signed his provisional abdication yesterday.
It took place at ten o'clock in the morning at Prince Paul Putiatin's house, No. 12, Millionaïa.
In addition to the Grand Duke and his secretary, Matveïev, there were present Prince Lvov, Rodzianko, Militikov, Nekrassov, Kerensky, Nabokov, Shingarev and Baron Nolde; about half-past ten they were joined by Gutchkov and Shulgin, who had come straight from Pskov.
As soon as the discussion. began, Gutchkov and Miliukov boldly asserted that Michael Alexandrovitch had no right to evade the responsibility of supreme power. Rodzianko, Nekrassov and Kerensky argued contra that the accession of a new Tsar would release a torrent of revolutionary passion and bring Russia face to face with a frightful crisis; their conclusion was that the monarchical question should be reserved until the meeting of the constituent assembly which would make its sovereign will known. The argument was pressed with such force and stubbornness, particularly by Kerensky, that all those present came round to it with the exception of Gutchkov and Miliukov. With complete disinterestedness the Grand Duke himself agreed.
Gutchkov then made a final effort. Addressing the Grand Duke in person and appealing to his patriotism and courage he pointed out how necessary it was that the Russian people should be presented at once with the living embodiment of a national leader:
"If you are afraid to take up the burden of the imperial crown now, Monseigneur, you should at least agree to exercise supreme authority as 'Regent of the Empire during the vacancy of the throne,' or, to take a much finer title, 'Protector of the Nation,' as Cromwell styled himself. At the same time you would give a solemn undertaking to the nation to surrender your power to a constituent assembly as soon as the war ends."
This ingenious idea, which might have saved the whole situation, made Kerensky almost beside himself with passion and provoked him to a torrent of invective and threats which terrified everyone there.
In the general confusion the Grand Duke rose with the remark that he would like to think things over by himself for a minute or two. He was making for the next room when Kerensky leaped in front of him as if to keep him back:
"Promise us not to consult your wife, Monseigneur!"
His thoughts had at once gone to the ambitious Countess Brassov whose empire over her husband's mind was complete. With a smile the Grand Duke replied:
"Don't worry, Alexander Feodorovitch, my wife isn't here at the moment; she stayed behind at Gatchina!"
Five minutes later the Grand Duke returned. In very calm tones he declared:
"I have decided to abdicate."
The triumphant Kerensky called out:
"Monseigneur, you are the noblest of men!"
The rest of the company, however, was wrapped in a .gloomy silence; even those who had been the strongest advocates of abdication---Prince Lvov and Rodzianko, for instance---seemed overwhelmed by the irreparable occurrence that had just taken place. Gutchkov relieved his conscience by a final protest:
"Gentlemen, you are leading Russia to her ruin; I am not going to follow you in that baneful path."
A provisional and conditional abdication was then drawn up by Nekrassov, Nabokov and Baron Nolde. Michael Alexandrovitch interrupted them several times in their task to make it quite clear that his refusal of the imperial crown remained subject to the ultimate decision of the Russian nation as represented by a constituent assembly.
At the conclusion he took the pen and signed.
Throughout this long and painful discussion the Grand Duke's composure and dignity never once deserted him. Hitherto his compatriots have had but a poor opinion of him; he was considered to be of weak character and lacking in brains. But on this historic occasion his patriotism, nobility and self-sacrifice were very touching. When the final formalities had been concluded, the delegates of the Executive Committee could not help showing him that the impression he made upon them won their sympathy and respect. Kerensky tried to interpret the emotion they all felt in a lapidary phrase which fell from his lips in a theatrical outburst.
"Monseigneur! You have generously entrusted to us the sacred cup of your power. I promise you we will hand it on to the constituent assembly without spilling a single drop."
General Efimovitch, who called on me this morning, has brought me some news of Tsarskoïe-Selo.
It was through the Grand Duke Paul that the Empress learned yesterday evening of the Emperor's abdication; she had heard nothing of him for two days. She burst out:
"It's quite impossible! It isn't true! It's another newspaper lie! I believe in God and trust the army. Neither could have deserted us at so critical a moment!"
The Grand Duke read her the abdication which had just been published. Then everything came home to her and she burst into tears.
The Provisional Government has not been long in capitulating to the demands of the socialists. At the Soviet's command it has actually come to the following humiliating decision:
The troops which have taken part in the revolutionary movement will not be disarmed but will remain in Petrograd.
Thus the first act of the revolutionary army is to extract a promise that it shall not be sent to the front but shall fight no more! What a badge of shame for the Russian Revolution! How can one help thinking of the contrast afforded by the Volunteers of 1792! Besides, the soldiers in the streets seem lost to all decency and are giving a disgusting exhibition of effrontery and licence. By its infamous insistence the Soviet has created for itself a formidable militia, for the garrisons of Petrograd and the suburbs (Tsarskoïe-Selo, Peterhof, Krasnoïe-Selo and Gatchina) comprise no less than 170,000 men.
This afternoon Miliukov took over the portfolio of foreign affairs. He made a point of seeing me at once, as well as my English and Italian colleagues.
We answered his summons at once.
I found him very much changed, extremely weary and looking ten years older. The days and nights of fierce controversy through which he has just passed have worn him out.
I asked him:
"Before you take to official phraseology tell me frankly and honestly what you think of the situation."
In an outburst of sincerity he replied:
"Within the last twenty-four hours I have passed from utter despair to all but perfect confidence."
Then we talked officially:
"I'm not yet in a position," I said, "to tell you that the Government of the Republic recognizes the government you have set up; but I'm certain I'm only anticipating my instructions in promising you active and sympathetic assistance on my part."
He thanked me warmly, and continued: "We didn't want this revolution to come during hostilities; I didn't even anticipate it; but it has taken place, as the result of other agencies, and through the mistakes and crimes of the imperial regime. Our business now is to save Russia by ruthlessly prosecuting the war to victory. But the passions of the people have been so exasperated and the difficulties of the situation are so frightful that we must at once make great concessions to the national conscience."
Among these immediate concessions he mentioned the arrest of several ministers, generals, officials, and so on, the proclamation of a general amnesty---from which the servants of the old government will of course be excluded---the destruction of all the imperial emblems, the convocation of. a constituent assembly in the near future; in a word every measure calculated to rob the Russian nation of all fear of a counter-revolution.
"So the Romanov dynasty has fallen I said."
"Yes, in fact; no, in law. The constituent assembly alone will be qualified to change the political status of Russia."
"But how will you secure the election of this constituent assembly? Will the men at the front be content to forego their votes?"
With considerable confusion he admitted: "We shall be obliged to grant the men at the front the right to vote."
"What, you're going to give the men at the front a vote! Most of them are fighting thousands of versts from their villages and can't read or write!"
Miliukov as good as told me that in his heart of hearts he shared my views and confided that he is doing his utmost to give no definite promise as to the date of the general election.
"But the socialists are insisting on an election at once," he added. "They are extremely strong, and the situation is very, very critical!"
As I pressed him to explain these words, he told me that though order has been restored to some extent in Petrograd, the Baltic Fleet and Kronstadt garrison are in open revolt.
I asked Miliukov about the official nomenclature of the new government.
" The title hasn't been decided upon yet," he said. "At the moment we are calling ourselves the Provisional Government. But in that name we are getting all executive authority, including the imperial prerogative, into our hands; so we are not responsible to the Duma."
"In a word, you derive all your power from the revolution?"
'"No, we have received it., by inheritance, from the Grand Duke Michael, who transferred it to us by his abdication decree."
This legal sensitiveness showed me that the "moderates" of the new order, Rodzianko, Prince Lvov, Gutchkov and Miliukov himself, are extremely worried and uneasy in their conscience at the idea of violating monarchical rights. At bottom---and it is only, the normal course of revolutions---they feel that they are already being thrust aside, and are fearfully wondering where they will be to-morrow.
Miliukov looked so exhausted, and the loss of voice he has suffered in the last few days made talking so painful for him, that I had to cut short our interview. But before leaving him I urged very strongly that the Provisional Government should delay no longer in solemnly proclaiming its fidelity to the alliances and its determination to continue the war at any cost.
"You must realize that what is wanted is a plain and unambiguous proclamation. Of course I haven't a doubt about your own feelings. But the direction of Russian affairs is now at the mercy of new forces; they must be given a lead at once. I have another reason for insisting that the ruthless prosecution of the war and the maintenance of the alliances shall be proclaimed openly. I must tell you that in the old days I more than once caught germanophile circles at Court---the Sturmer and Protopopov gang---dropping a hint which worried me very much; it was admitted that the Emperor Nicholas would not be able to make peace with Germany so long as Russian soil had not been entirely cleared of the enemy, for he had taken an oath on the Gospel and the ikon of Our Lady of Kazan; but it was whispered that if the Emperor could be induced to abdicate in favour of the Tsarevitch under the regency of the Empress, his disastrous oath would not be binding on his heir. You can see that I should like to be sure that the new Russia considers herself bound by the oath of her former Tsar."
"You'll receive every guarantee on that head."
The food problem is still so difficult in Petrograd that my supplies and the skill of my chef are very valuable to my friends. I had seven or eight of them to dinner to-night, the party including the Gortchakovs and Benckendorffs. Everyone was very depressed; they could see extremist proletarian doctrines already sweeping over Russia, disintegrating the national unity, spreading anarchy, famine and ruin everywhere.
My forebodings are equally gloomy, alas! None of the men in power at this moment possesses the political vision, faculty of swift decision, courage and boldness which so formidable a situation calls for. They are "Octobrists," "Cadets," advocates of constitutional monarchy, level-headed, honest, moderate and disinterested. They remind me of Molé, Odilon, Barrot, etc. in July, 1830. Yet the least that is required now is a Danton! I am told, however, that they have one man of action among them, the young Minister of Justice, Kerensky, who represents the "Labour" group in the Duma and has been forced on the Provisional Government by the Soviet.
There is no question that the men of initiative, energy and courage, must be sought for in the Soviet. Themultifarious sections of the Social-Revolutionary and social-Democratic parties, "People's Party," "Labour Men," "Terrorists," "Maximalists," "Minimalists," "Defeatists," etc., are not lacking in men who have given proof of resolution and audacity in plots, penal servitude and exile; I need only mention Tcheidze, Tseretelli, Zinoviev and Axelrod. These are the true protagonists of the drama on which the curtain is now rising
Nicholas II abdicated yesterday, shortly before mid-night.
When the emissaries of the Duma, Gutchkov and Shulgin, arrived at Pskov about nine o'clock in the evening, the Emperor gave them his usual simple and kindly reception.
In very dignified language and a voice which trembled somewhat, Gutchkov told the Emperor the object of his mission and ended with these words:
"Nothing but the abdication of Your Majesty in favour of your son can still save the Russian Fatherland and preserve the dynasty."
The Emperor replied very quickly, as if referring to some perfectly commonplace matter:
"I decided to abdicate yesterday. But I cannot be separated from my son; that is more than I could bear; his health is too delicate you must realize what I feel . . . I shall therefore abdicate in favour of my brother, Michael Alexandrovitch."
Gutchkov at once bowed to the argument of fatherly affection to which the Tsar appealed and Shulgin also acquiesced.
The Emperor then went into his study with the Minister of the Court; he came out ten minutes later with the act of abdication signed. Count Fredericks handed it to Gutchkov.
This memorable document is worded as follows:
By the grace of God, we, Nicholas II, Emperor of all the Russias, Tsar of Poland, Grand Duke of Finland, etc., etc., to all our faithful subjects make known:
In these days of terrible struggle against the foreign enemy who has been trying for three years to impose his will upon Our Fatherland, God has willed that Russia should be faced with a new and formidable trial. Troubles at home threaten to have a fatal effect on the ultimate course of this hard-fought war. The destinies of Russia, the honour of Our heroic army, the welfare of the nation and the whole future of our dear country require that the war shall be continued, cost what it may, to a victorious end.
Our cruel enemy is making his final effort and the day is at hand when our brave army, with the help of our glorious allies, will overthrow him once and for all.
At this moment, a moment so decisive for the existence of Russia, Our conscience bids Us to facilitate the closest union of Our subjects and the organization of all their forces for the speedy attainment of victory.
For that reason We think it right---and the Imperial Duma shares Our view---to abdicate the crown of the Russian State and resign the supreme power.
As We do not desire to be separated from Our beloved son, We bequeath Our inheritance to Our brother, the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovitch, and give him Our blessing on his accession to the throne. We ask him to govern in the closest concert with the representatives of the nation who sit in the legislative assemblies and to pledge them his inviolable oath in the name of the beloved country.
We appeal to all the loyal sons of Russia and ask them to do their patriotic and sacred duty by obeying their Tsar at this moment of painful national crisis and to help him and the representatives of the nation to guide the Russian State into the path of prosperity and glory.
May God help Russia!
On reading this declaration, which was typed on an ordinary sheet of paper, the emissaries of the Duma were deeply stirred and could hardly speak as they took their leave of Nicholas II who was as unmoved as ever as he give them a kindly handshake.
As soon as they left the carriage the imperial train started off for Dvinsk with a view to returning to Mohilev.
History can show few events so momentous, or so pregnant with possibilities and far-reaching in their effects. Yet of all those of which it has left any record, is there a single one which has taken place in such casual, commonplace and prosaic fashion, and above all with such indifference and self-effacement on the part of the principal hero?
Is it simply lack of interest in the Emperor's case? I think not. His abdication decree, over which he has pondered long if he did not actually word it himself, is inspired by the loftiest sentiments, and its general tone is nobility itself. But his moral attitude at this supreme crisis appears perfectly logical if it is admitted as I have often remarked, that for many months past the unhappy sovereign has felt himself lost and that he long ago made his sacrifice and accepted his fate.
The accession of the Grand Duke Michael to the throne has aroused the fury of the Soviet: "No more Romanovs!" is the cry in all quarters: "We want a republic!"
For one moment the harmony was shattered which was established with such difficulty between the Executive Committee of the Duma and the Soviet yesterday evening. But fear of the gaol-birds who are in command at the Finland Station and the Fortress has compelled the representatives of the Duma to give way. A delegation from the Executive Committee went to see the Grand Duke Michael who made no sort of objection and consented to accept the crown only if it should be offered to him by the constituent assembly. Perhaps he would have submitted less tamely if his wife, the clever and ambitious Countess Brassov, had been at his side and not at Gatchina.
The Soviet isnow master.
Disturbances in the city are also beginning again. In the course of the afternoon I have been told of many demonstrations against the war. Certain regiments have suggested making a protest outside the French and English Embassies. At seven o'clock this evening the Executive Committee decided it was better to post soldiers in the two embassies. Thirty-two cadets of the Corps of Pages have just taken up their station in my house.
Gutchkov and Shulgin left Petrograd at nine o'clock this morning. Thanks to the aid of an engineer attached to the railway service, they were able to get a special train without arousing the suspicions of the socialist committees. See more
Discipline is gradually being re-established among the troops. Order has been restored in the city and the shops are cautiously opening their doors again.
The Executive Committee of the Duma and the Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies have come to an agreement on the following points:
(1) Abdication of the Emperor; (2) Accession of the Tsarevitch; (3) The Grand Duke Michael (the Emperor's brother) to be regent; (4) Formation of a responsible ministry; (5) Election of a constituent assembly by universal suffrage; (6) All races to be proclaimed equal before the law.
The young deputy Kerensky, who has gained a reputation as an advocate in political trials, is coming out as one of the most active and strong-minded organizers of the new order. His influence with the Soviet isgreat. He is a man we must try to win over to our cause. He alone is capable of making the Soviet realize the necessity of continuing the war and maintaining the alliance. I have therefore telegraphed to Paris, suggesting to Briand that an appeal from the French socialists to the patriotism of the Russian socialists should be sent through Kerensky.
But the whole of the interest of the day has been concentrated on the little town of Pskov, half-way between Petrograd and Dvinsk. It was there that the imperial train, which failed to reach Tsarskoïe-Selo, stopped at eight o'clock yesterday evening.
The Emperor, who left Mohilev on March 13 at 4.30 a.m., decided to go to Tsarskoïe-Selo, the Empress having begged him to return there at once. The news he had received from Moscow did not alarm him unduly. Of course it may be that General Voyeïkov kept part of the truth from him. About three o'clock in the morning of March 14, as the engine of the imperial train was taking in water at the station of Malaïa-Vichera, General Zabel, commander of His Majesty's Railway Regiment, took it upon himself to awaken the Emperor to tell him that the line to Petrograd had been closed and that Tsarskoïe-Selo was in the hands of the revolutionary forces. After giving vent to his surprise and irritation at not having been better informed, the Emperor is said to have replied:
"Moscow will remain faithful to me. We will go to Moscow!"
Then he is reported to have added, with his usual apathy:
"If the revolution succeeds, I shall abdicate voluntarily. I'll go and live at Livadia; I love flowers."
But at the station of Dno it was learned that the whole populace of Moscow had adhered to the revolution. Then the Emperor decided to seek a haven of refuge among his troops and selected the headquarters of the armies of the North, commanded by General Russky, at Pskov.
The imperial train arrived at Pskov at eight o'clock yesterday evening.
General Russky came to confer with the Emperor at once and had no difficulty in demonstrating that his duty was to abdicate. He also invoked the unanimous opinion of General Alexeïev and the army commanders, whom he had consulted by telegraph.
The Emperor instructed General Russky to report to Rodzianko, the President of the Duma, his intention to renounce the throne.
This morning Pokrovski resigned his office as Foreign Minister; he did so with that calm and unaffected dignity which makes him so lovable.
"My work is over," he said to me. "The President of the Council and all my colleagues have been arrested or are in flight. It is three days since the Emperor showed any sign of life and, to crown everything, General Ivanov, who was to bring us His Majesty's orders, has not arrived. In the circumstances it is impossible for me to carry out my duties; I am leaving my post and handing over its duties to my administrative deputy. In this way I avoid breaking my oath to the Emperor, as I have not entered into any sort of communication with the revolutionaries."
During the evening, the leaders of the Duma have at last succeeded in forming a Provisional Government with Prince Lvov as president; he is taking the Ministry of the Interior. The other ministers are Gutchkov (War), Miliukov (Foreign Affairs), Terestchenko (Finance), Kerensky (Justice), etc.
The first cabinet of the new régime was only formed after interminable wrangling and haggling with the Soviet. The socialists have certainly realized that the Russian proletariat is still too inorganic and ignorant to shoulder the practical responsibilities of power; but they are anxious to be the power behind the scenes, so they have insisted on the appointment of Kerensky as Minister for Justice in order to keep an eye on the Provisional Government.
There has been much fighting and burning again in Petrograd this morning. The soldiers are hunting down officers and gendarmes---a ruthless and savage chase which betrays all the barbarous instincts still latent in the moujik nature. See more
In the general anarchy which is raging in Petrograd, three directing bodies are in process of formation:
(1) The "Executive Committee of the Duma," with Rodzianko as its president and comprising twelve members, including Miliukov, Shulgin, Konovalov, Kerensky and Cheidze. It is thus representative of all parties of the progressive group and the Extreme Left. It is trying to secure the necessary reforms immediately in order to maintain the existing political system, at the cost of proclaiming another emperor, if need be. But the Tauris Palace is occupied by the insurgents so that the committee has to confer amidst general uproar, and is exposed to the bullying of the mob; (2) The "Council of Working-Men and Soldier Deputies," the Soviet. It holds its sittings at the Finland station. Its password and battlecry is "Proclaim the social Republic and put an end to the war." Its leaders are already denouncing the members of the Duma as traitors to the revolution, and openly adopting the same attitude towards the legal representative body as the Commune of Paris adopted towards the Legislative Assembly in 1792; (3) The "Headquarters of the Troops." This body sits in the Fortress of SS. Peter and Paul. It is composed of a few junior officers who have gone over to the revolution and several N.C.O.'s or soldiers who have been promoted to officer rank. It is endeavouring to introduce a little system into the business of supplying the combatants and is sending them food and ammunition. In particular it is keeping the Duma in a state of subjection. Through it the soldiery is all-powerful at the present moment. A few battalions, quartered in and around the Fortress, are the only organized force in Petrograd; they are the prætorians of the revolution and as determined, ignorant and fanatical as the famous battalions of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine and the Faubourg Saint-Marcel in that same year 1792.
Since the Russian revolution, memories of the French revolution have often passed through my mind. But the spirit of the two movements is quite dissimilar. By its origins, principles and social, rather than political character, the present upheaval has a much stronger resemblance to the Revolution of 1848.
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.
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. See more
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.
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.