I got up at 6 a.m. on Monday, March 12th, as the Ambassador had asked me to go with his car to the Baltic Station to meet Miss Buchanan, who was returning from a visit to the neighbourhood of Reval. I returned to the Embassy at 9.30a.m.and about an hour later drove to the Artillery Department, a large building on the Liteini Prospekt. I was talking to friends there in the corridor on the first floor, outside the office of General Manikovski, the Chief of the Department, when General Hypatiev, the chemical expert, and M. Tereshchenko arrived with the news that the depot troops of the garrison had mutinied and were coming down the street. I heard for the first time that a company of the Pavlovski Regiment had fired on the police on the previous evening and had been disarmed and confined in the Preobrajenski barracks.
The Preobrajenski and Volinski Regiments had now mutinied. We went to the window and waited. Outside there was evident excitement, but no sound came to us through the thick double windows. Groups were standing at the corners gesticulating and pointing down the street. Officers were hurrying away, and motor-cars, my own amongst the number, were taking refuge in the courtyards of neighbouring houses. It seemed that we waited at least ten minutes before the mutineers arrived. Craning our necks, we first saw two soldiers a sort of advanced guard—who strode along the middle of the street, pointing their rifles at loiterers to clear the road. One of them fired two shots at an unfortunate chauffeur. Then came agreat disorderly mass of soldiery, stretching right across the wide street and both pavements. They were led by a diminutive but immensely dignified student. There were no officers. All were armed,and many had red flags fastened to their bayonets. They came slowly and finally gathered in a compact mass in front of the Department. They looked up at the windows,which were now crowded with officers and clerks, but showed no sign of hostility. What struck me most was the uncanny silence of it all. We were like spectators in a gigantic cinema. Tereshchenko, who stood beside me, told me later that as he looked down on the disorderly crowd, he foresaw all the quarrels and licence and indiscipline that were to follow. General Manikovski came out and invited Tereshchenko and me into his room. We were soon joined there by General Hypatiev, and by General Lekhovich, who a few hours before had been appointed Assistant Minister of War. Hypatiev asked me if I reported such things to England, and I said that I certainly did. He seemed overcome by the shame of the mutiny.
Soon we heard the windows and door on the ground floor being broken in, and the sound of shots reached us. The telephone rang and Manikovski took up the receiver. “ They are shooting at the Sestroretsk Works, are they ? He roared in his great voice. «Well, God be with them! They are shooting at the Chief Artillery Department too»
An exited orderly rushed in: “ Your High Excellency! They are forcing their way info the building. Shall we barricade your door? ” But Manikovski had kept his nerve,and said: “No. Open all the doors. Why should we hinder them ? ” As the orderly turned away, astonished at this new complaisance, Manikovski sighed, and said to me with the characteristic Russian click of worried anger : «Look what our Ministry has brought us to» !
Tereshchenko went out, and most of the officers were leaving the Department by a back door. Hypatiev and I went to the staircase and looked over the banisters. Down on the ground floor, soldiers were taking the officers’ swords, and a few hooligans were going through the pockets of coats left in the vestibule. I went down and found a N.C.O. of the Preobrajenskis, who was ordering his men to take only the swords and to steal nothing. I told him who I was, and he helped me on with my coat. I returned upstairs and found Manikovski had gone.
A party of soldiers was almost timidly breaking the glass of one of the arm-stands to take out the rifles—specimens of the armament of other nations, that were without ammunition and would be of no use to them. As they went off, proud of their capture, an officer caught the arm of one of them—a young soldier with a straight, honest face—and remonstrated with him, and I heard the boy reply : “I could not help it. They forced me.” I descended the stairs and my N.G.O. gave me a couple of men to escort me through the crowd. Out in the street a ragged individual expressed his delight with much gesticulation. He yelled : “ They used to beat our friends in the prison over there, to beat them with rods ! A hundred yards further we met the French Military Attache, Colonel Lavergne, who was on his way to the Artillery Department in search of some prosaic details regarding the output of shell. My escort recommended him to turn back and we walked together to the French Embassy. There, as the men left us, we stood a moment on the Quay, and looked back at the stream of troops now crossing the bridge to liberate the prisoners in the Krestovski prison, and Lavergne suddenly asked me if those men
were mutineers and if my escort had been mutineers. They had been so orderly and friendly that he had never dreamed that they were anything but loyal troops !
I walked on to the British Embassy. The Ambassador had gone, as usual, with the French Ambassador to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I telephoned to him that a large part of the garrison had mutinied and was in undisputed control of the Liteini Prospekt. I heard him repeat my message in French to the Foreign Minister M. Pokrovski, and to the French Ambassador.
I expected Colonel Engelhardt to lunch, so walked back to my flat. Engelhardt, of course, did not come, for he, with other prominent members of the Duma, was busy trying to bring the torrent of anarchy under control. He had been appointed Commandant of Petrograd
The sun shines so brightly and I felt such peace and tranquility next to his precious grave! He died to save us.
The first red banner has appeared, a vile rag.
There are no pleasures, only profanity.
At around ten o’clock, reports came from the outskirts of the city that the troops had begun to fire on the crowds.
A company of the Pavlov regiment refused to put down the disturbances, they shot at the mounted police patrol (a policeman and two horses were killed). The battalion commander, Colonel Eksten, was badly wounded in the head.
The palace is deadly quiet. It is unsettling. And most importantly- his Majesty is not here. It is necessary for his Majesty to return immediately from Stavka.
Told much about the disorders in town (I think over 200,000 people) -- find that one does not keep good order. But I wrote all this yesterday, forgive me, I am foolish. But one ought to arrange card system for bread (as in every country now) as one has it for sugar some time and all are quiet and got enough. Our people are idiots. See more
A poor gendarme officer was killed by the crowd a few other people too. That gaping public does harm, well dressed people, wounded soldiers and so on, koursistki etc. who egg on others. Things were very bad yesterday in town - 120 arrests - 30 people, chief leaders and Lelianov drawn to account for speeches in the city's Duma. The ministers and some right members of the Duma had a council last night to take severe measures and they are full of hope that tomorrow it will be calm, they had intended to set up barricades etc.
Ever, sweet Nicky, your old Sunny
On the third day I left Sevastopol in the morning for Trabzon and, with my usual bad luck, we ran into rather blustery weather, with brisk winds from the NW at times reaching storm levels. With the boat pitching violently on enormous overtaking waves there was only one thing I could do: sleep.
Everyone is extremely worked up and no one has any illusions concerning the success of the revolutionary movement. It seems more likely to imagine that the insurrection will be supressed by the usual combination of police and bayonets. The insurrection itself, at the very least, can already be spoken of as a done deal.
The rioting in Petrograd has intensified — about 200 people have been killed on Suvorov Avenue and on Znamensky.
It was almost three in the morning by the time I got home from the cabinet meeting at Prince Golytsin’s house. The ministers were in a state of great aggravation, and at the same time, clearly suffering from their awareness of the heavy responsibility which they bore for the current situation, seemed despondent, which I found rather dispiriting.
On the 26th, a Sunday, General Halle telephoned me once more to warn me that the situation in the city was very serious, and that I should save what I could from my house before it was too late. He telephoned repeatedly all through the day. Although he still considered the situation very serious, he hoped it might improve "if the abscess burst". His advice to save what could still be saved placed me in a real dilemma. Although I never kept my large diamond jewellery at home, but left it with Faberge, I still had at home a great number of small jewels, not to mention the silver and other precious objects with which my rooms were decorated. What was I to choose? What was I to take away, and where?
I spent the morning with Markozov, whom I interrupted at breakfast at 10 a.m. There is no lack of rye flour in Petrograd. It is true that from the 1st till the 9th only 210 wagon-loads of flour came in, but 100 wagons came in yesterday, and there are now 459,000 puds in store, in addition to quantities estimated at 20,000 puds with the bakers and perhaps 100,000 puds with private consumers. See more
The Food Controller issues 35,000 puds a day to such bakeries as promise to bake, and if this quantity was really baked it would be sufficient for the population. However, there is practically no wheat flour, and there are no oats or hay. We have 60,000 horses. The market price of oats is Rs.9 per pud and of rye flour only Rs.2.80. With fuel at its present price (Rs.40 per sagene instead of Rs.5), the baker’s trade has ceased to be profitable, and the baker prefers to sell the rye flour issued to him. The horseowners buy it and feed their animals on it in lieu of oats. Hence a shortage of baked bread. Owing to the defective system of bread cards, individuals have been able to collect several rations by joining several queues in the day. Hence a still further shortage of baked bread, and workmen who have been at work all day have to go to bed hungry. Hence natural discontent. Markozov thinks that an error was made in fixing the price of grain too low. Hence the peasants have been holding for a rise. Efforts have been made to increase the reward to the agriculturist, but the real desideratum is confidence in the Government and a patriotic sense of duty. It is impossible for the Government to requisition as the grain is scattered in small peasants’farms. It requisitioned from the merchants in 1914, and the latter have since then avoided the accumulation of large stocks. The Government had hitherto refused to hand over the arrangements for the distribution of food to the Municipality, because the latter insisted on nominating representatives of all classes to the distribution committees, and this, the Government maintained, required the passing of a new law ! The Municipality also insisted on buying grain themselves. These two points have now been conceded, and the “ new law ” will be passed as quickly as possible. The question is whether the Municipality, now that everything is in a mess, will be able to restore order from chaos.
When I left Markozov’s house the chauffeur pointed to a huge crowd coming down the street a few hundred yards off—the workmen from one of the outlying factories coming in to demonstrate. We were stopped by troops from returning through the Nevski, but made a wide detour and got home to lunch.
On the 11th the situation suddenly became very critical and the most alarming news arrived without warning. The mob made its way into the centre of the town, and the troops, who had been called in the previous evening, were offering but slight resistance. See more
I heard also that an Imperial ukase had ordered the sittings of the Duma to be suspended, but that, in view of the grave events in progress, the Assembly had disregarded the decree for its prorogation and decided to form an executive committee charged with the duty of restoring order.
The fighting was renewed with greater violence the next morning, and the insurgents managed to secure possession of the arsenal. Towards the evening I was told on the telephone from Petrograd that reserve elements of several regiments of the Guard — e.g., the Paul, Preobrajensky, and other regiments —had made common cause with them. This piece of news absolutely appalled the Czarina. She had been extremely anxious since the previous evening, and realised that the peril was imminent.
She had spent these two days between the rooms of the Grand-Duchesses and that of Alexis Nicolalevitch, who had taken a turn for the worse, but she always did her utmost to conceal her torturing anxiety from the invalids.
General Khabalov, Military Governor of Petrograd, has had the city placarded with the following warning this morning:
"All meetings or gatherings are forbidden. I notify the civil population that I have given the troops fresh authority to use their arms and stop at nothing to maintain order."