PETROGRAD, Feb. 21. The question of railway construction on a large scale is occupying the attention of the Ministry of Ways and Communications and leading economists. The Ministry has drawn a scheme which is to be carried into effect after the war, but the whole matter has assumed a more urgent character owing to the application of a group of American capitalists for a concession to build a railway from Moscow to the Donets coal fields. See more
The idea of railway concessions to foreigners is strongly opposed by several Russian economists on the ground that it would involve raising freights and fares and would subject the whole Russian railway policy to the vicissitudes of the money market as opposed to the existing system of purely Government railways, which, with its rule of low profits, provides the only sure guarantee of economic development.
All day there was a blizzard and the trains everywhere were held up. I received four official visitors. I sat for a while with Alexei and went for a walk. Studied.
After an interminable series of luncheons, dinners and receptions at the embassy, the Finance Ministry, the Franco-Russian Chamber of Commerce, the President of the Council's residence, the Town Council, the Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna's palace, the Yacht Club, etc., the foreign delegates are now returning westwards, via the ice-bound Arctic Ocean. See more
The results of this conference, which has been the subject of so much mystery - and likewise so much talk - are very poor. We have exchanged views about the blockade of Greece, the inadequacy of Japan's help, the prospective value of intervention by America, the critical position of Rumania and the necessity of closer and more practical allied co-operation; we have ascertained the colossal requirements of the Russian army in matériel and made joint arrangements to provide for them as soon as possible. That is all.
When Doumergue and General de Castelnau came to bid me good-bye, I gave them a message to take:
"Please tell the President of the Republic and the President of the Council that you have left me very anxious. A revolutionary crisis is at hand in Russia; it nearly broke out five weeks ago and is only postponed. Every day the Russian nation is getting more indifferent towards the war and the spirit of anarchy is spreading among all classes and even in the army. About the end of last October a very significant incident occurred in Petrograd; I reported it to Monsieur Briand. A strike broke out in the Vibori, quarter and as the police were very roughly handled by the workmen, two regiments which were in barracks in the vicinity, were sent for. These two regiments fired on the police. A division of Cossacks had to be hastily called in to bring the mutineers to their senses. So in case of a rising the authorities cannot count on the army. My conclusion is that time is no longer working for us, at any rate in Russia, and that we must henceforth take the defection of our ally into our calculations and draw all the inferences involved."
"I am just as pessimistic as yourself," replied Doumergue; "I shall certainly tell the President of the Republic and M. Briand all you say, and will confirm it myself."
On the way back to St Petersburg. Have just got on the train. This time I am travelling third class, as first and second are all taken up by deputies of the State Duma and officers of the highest ranks. Nevertheless, it must be said that my fellow travellers are from the educated classes.
After the Germans came out for unrestricted submarine warfare, mountains of military supplies blocked the railways and filled all the eastern stations and ports. Prices instantly soared, and I saw thousands of women – mothers, in the wealthiest city of the world – come out into the streets, upset the stalls, and break into shops. What will it be like in the rest of the world after the war? I asked myself.
Cold weather, a snowstorm, minus 24 degrees this evening. We didn’t do anything in particular in the evening. Father read “Masquerade”. Bed at 11.
Kerensky called on us in the last few days and related with much invective the news of the recent arrest of a number of workers from the War Industry Committee and the position that Milyukov has taken regarding the event. Kerensky was all aflame, positively beside himself with anger, to which I only shrugged my shoulders. The story was, after all, nothing new. Milyukov and his faction were only being true to themselves.
Kerensky was restless and impatient as always. But, profound as his impatience and indignation are, he’s right to experience them.