The huge social shift that has taken place between the February and October revolutions, the complete revolution in thought and ideas, suggesting the possibility of making wilful changes to life as one had previously planned it, and bringing one into an unexpected sense of close communion with little-known and surprising areas of art (Japan, Jacques Callot, Hogarth, Goya) - all this pushes and drives one to test oneself in new directions. So far, only on paper, in plans and in dreams.
I received an anonymous letter about the title of my picture “Slaves of Imperialism”. The postcard reads “I went to an exhibition of the Peredvizhniki yesterday and saw your “Slaves of Imperialism” and was amazed at the ridiculous title. You were a great artist in the past, and as an old man you are still making yourself heard. But why put on airs and indulge in such foolery in naming your picture? It makes one ashamed for “Repin” and for “Russian art” - is Russian art, now, too the puppet of the revolution? We are deeply troubled and saddened by your behaviour. It is like the rouge covering the pale face of the heroine in Kuprin’s “The Pit”. Time to hold your tongue, old man.”
The effect of Bolshevism as a revolutionary hope is greater outside Russia than within the Soviet Republic. Grim realities have done much to kill hope among those who are subject to the dictatorship of Moscow.
The Central Executive Committee are crocodiles with extraordinary minds. They have a firm policy: "down with the war", "down with private property", "bust all inner opposition." They want to strike an immediate peace treaty with the external enemy and start a merciless war on landlords, capitalists, and reactionists. All the terms have very broad definitions. Quite poor people, who had small savings or owned a house, were considered to be bourgeoisie. Left-wing Socialist Revolutionaries were labeled reactionists. While he waited for more detailed accords, Lenin called the masses to "rob what was robbed." Peasants were encouraged to kill landlords and take their belongings.
I had a letter today from one of our mayors at home, calling my attention to the fact that disaster due to lack of foodstuffs is now imminent. I immediately telegraphed the Emperor as follows: See more
“I have just received a letter from Statthalter N.N. which justifies all the fears I have constantly repeated to Your Majesty, and shows that in the question of food supply we are on the very verge of a catastrophe. The situation arising out of the carelessness and incapacity of the Ministers is terrible, and I fear it is already too late to check the total collapse which is to be expected in the next few weeks. My informant writes: "Only small quantities are now being received from Hungary, from Roumania only 10,000 wagons of maize; this gives then a decrease of at least 30,000 wagons of grain, without which we must infallibly perish. On learning the state of affairs, I went to the Prime Minister to speak with him about it. I told him, as is the case, that in a few weeks our war industries, our railway traffic, would be at a standstill, the provisioning of the army would be impossible, it must break down, and that would mean the collapse of Austria and therewith also of Hungary. To each of these points he answered yes, that is so, and added that all was being done to alter the state of affairs, especially as regards the Hungarian deliveries. But no one, not even His Majesty, has been able to get anything done. We can only hope that some deus ex machina may intervene to save us from the worst.”
I then pointed out that the only way of meeting the situation would be to secure temporary assistance from Germany, and then to requisition by force the stocks that were doubtless still available in Hungary; finally, I begged the Emperor to inform the Austrian Prime Minister of my telegram.
This Government not disposed as yet to recognize any independent governments until the will of Russian people has been more definitely expressed in this general subject.