I have just been told of a long conversation which took place recently between the Empress and Monsignor Theophanes, the Bishop of Viatka. This prelate is a creature of Rasputin, but the way he spoke to his sovereign shows that he has a sensible and independent mind.
The Tsarina first asked him about the attitude of his flock towards the war. Monsignor Theophanes replied that the spirit of patriotism had not waned in his diocese which lies west of the Urals: of course the public was suffering from so long a trial; there was grumbling and criticism, but men were willing to put up with many more losses and much more privation in the cause of victory. He could reassure the Empress on that point. But in other respects he had much to worry and grieve him; he had observed that the demoralization of the people was making alarming progress every day. The men who returned from the army, sick, wounded, or on leave, were giving utterance to scandalous opinions; they openly professed unbelief and atheism and did not even shrink from blasphemy and sacrilege. Anyone could see at once that they had been in touch with intellectuals and Jews.
The cinemas, which had now spread to every little provincial town, were now another cause of degeneration. Melodramatic adventures and scenes of robbery and murder were too heady for simple souls such as moujiks:they fired their imaginations and turned their heads. It was thus that the bishop accounted for the unwonted number of sensational crimes of violence which have been recorded in recent months not only in the diocese of Viatka but the neighbouring dioceses of Ekaterinburg, Tobolsk, Perm and Samara. In support of his statements, he showed the Empress photographs of looted shops, sacked houses and mutilated corpses, all of them obviously showing the handiwork of audacious criminality. He, then castigated a wholly modern vice---morphia-taking---of which the masses in Russia had not even heard until quite recently. The evil had come from all the military hospitals with which the country is dotted.
Many doctors and chemists had got into the habit of taking morphia; through them the use of the drug had spread among officers, officials, engineers and students. Before long the hospital attendants had followed their examples, and their case was far more pernicious because they had made men of the people their companions in debauchery. When they did not take morphia themselves they sold it to others; everyone in Viatka knew the cabarets where this trade was carried on. The police had good reasons for shutting their eyes to it ...
Monsignor Theophanes ended thus:
"The wretched condition to which the sviat chenik isreduced, as things are now, compels him to resort to a scandalous sort of trading which deprives him of all prestige and dignity. I anticipate great disasters to our holy church unless its supreme guardian, our revered and pious Tsar, reforms it as soon as possible..."
Some girl on the tram accidentally bumped into me. I was in a black mood and got absolutely enraged for some reason. Suddenly, though, I noticed that the girl’s sleeve was stained with something white, and all my anger melted away at once, with nothing less than pity taking its place. (The little stain on her sleeve struck me as poignant – I was moved by the thought that her folks hadn’t got it out for her at home, etc.)
We went in a closed car with Tatiana, Anastasia and Anya Vyrubova to Alexandrovskii street and back again.
The embassies are preoccupied exclusively with the war. The French couldn’t care less what’s going on inside the country – provided Russia’s fighting well; and they keep harassing us for news from the front. They were placated with the information that the current state of affairs is “reassuring”, and, as regards the Caucasus, even “magnificent”. A host of minor news stories and silly rumours are doing the rounds – they’re saying, for example, that “Wilhelm has been killed”. Now that’s a good one! Dima has learned much that is comic and tragic from right-wing dignitary circles.