Alexander Pushkin, the father of Russian literature is of noble blood. Leo Tolstoy is the son of the old aristocratic family. Turgenev, a landowner. Dostoevsky, a bureaucrat’s son. But all of them are nobles nonetheless. For literature, art, and all kinds of creative works in the Russian empire in the 19th century empire have belonged to the nobility.
As do other privileges such as the landed estates, rivers and mineral resources, forests and arable land, and even real people, the serfs who cultivated the land for them. All power, all the wealth, honor, knowledge, and all spiritual values have been given to hundreds of noble families, ten thousand people out of many millions of people. They represent Russia in the world’s eyes, its abundance, its nation, its power, its spirit.
Hundreds of families, ten thousand people. But beneath this thin layer lives and works the Russian people, millions of the masses, an unconscious gigantic force. These millions of grains of sand are scattered across the huge expanses of Russia. They are the millions of hands that multiply the wealth of this giant country day and night. They uproot the tree stumps, pave the roads, crush the grapes, and mine the ore. They reap and sow the snow covered black earth and fight in the Tsar’s wars. They serve and serve, and serve their masters, as well as all the peoples of today’s Europe with dedication and forced labor. But one thing distinguishes the Russian people from the other fraternal peoples: they still don’t have their own voice. For a long time, it’s been other people from their midst who were sent as messengers—writers, orators, and scholars. But millions of Russians still can’t express their wishes in the written word and have no right to express their thoughts on the fate of their country. They have nothing to convey and no way for to express their great and rebellious soul. This mysterious, vast ocean of people are overwhelmed by passion, but mighty and voiceless, disenfranchised, and desolate, and live and work secretly on the Russian land. Their souls are devoid of language, existence, and conscious thought. Their masters, the nobles, the powers that be speak for all voiceless. Until the 20th century, we learned about the Russian people by just listening to the voices of its noble writers—Pushkin, Tolstoy, Turgenev and Dostoevsky.
Petrograd is short of bread and wood, and the public is suffering want.
At a bakery on the Liteïny this morning I was struck by the sinister expression on the faces of the poor folk who were lined up in a queue, most of whom had spent the whole night there. See more
Pokrovski, to whom I mentioned the matter, did not conceal his anxiety. But what can be done! The transport crisis is certainly worse. The extreme cold (43°) which has all Russia in its grip has put more than twelve hundred engines out of action, owing to boiler tubes bursting, and there is a shortage of spare tubes as a result of strikes. Moreover, the snowfall of the last few weeks has been exceptionally heavy and there is also a shortage of labour in the villages to clear the permanent way. The result is that at the present moment fifty-seven thousand railway wagons cannot be moved.
On Saturday morning, M. Diamandi (the Rumanian Minister) telephoned that he wanted to see me. I went to him at 3p.m. I am sorry for him,for he is a gentleman, honest and a patriot, and he feels his position acutely, for he was largely instrumental in bringing his country into the war, that has proved so disastrous for it, while its intervention has so far brought nothing but inconvenience to the Entente. He talked for one and a half hours. First he pointed out See more
how Rumania had been left to her fate, forty-two enemy divisions being at one time concentrated against her, how Serail’s promised offensive from Salonika had been merely a demonstration, the lack of discipline among the Russian troops in Rumania, the thefts and the rape. He said that the Russians had promised 200,000 sets of uniform, and that these had been despatched from Moscow in September, but only 20,000 had so far reached Rumania, the rest having been pilfered en route or simply unloaded by the wayside into the snow. I stated a little of the Russian side of the question, and he allowed that there had been mistakes on both sides.
Then he touched on the political problem, remarking on our declaration that Constantinople should be handed over to Russia, and the effect in neutral countries of the Russian retreat beyond the Danube further and further away from our acknowledged objective.
He said that in Rumania there is only enough food to last till April. The Russians have been living on the country. The harvest will not be available till August.
It had been a fatal mistake to abandon the lowrer Danube a greater disaster even than the evacuation of Bucharest. The reconquest of this waterway was the only remedy.
I said it was too late, as the river would soon be in flood, and in any case the Russian troops, being without boots, were not in a condition to undertake an operation of such magnitude
At two I set off to the Alexandrov Palace for the reception. His Majesty departs tomorrow. I was preparing to accompany him, but the Empress told me this would not be necessary and brought him to me herself to say goodbye. He was very amiable and kind. It seemed to me that his Majesty has lost weight and is looking older.
This wretched feeling I have comes first and foremost from the apathy I’ve fallen into. I want to finally get around to living, not just existing. I want to do something worthwhile…. Writing is difficult, because everyone around me is screaming in my ear, 20 people are hammering in nails, playing chess, speaking over the telephone, chopping wood, playing on the mandolin – and all at the same time!
There was such glitter and such splendour, but everything seemed false and laboured. Aliki was quite worn out and almost fainted during the ball. As I looked at all the festive illuminations, and attended one ball after another I had the strange feeling that, although we were celebrating in the same way as we had for centuries, some new and terrible circumstances were appearing around us, due to forces beyond our control.
If someone wants to jump into a pit, you should exert all your efforts to hold him back. If, however, it becomes clear that he is determined to jump, you should push him, in the hope that just maybe your extra efforts will carry him over to the other side.